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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 00:06 GMT
Human rights 'blaming' under fire
Anthony Rice
The release of killer Anthony Rice prompted concern
The prime minister and other senior ministers should stop blaming the Human Rights Act for failings in their departments, MPs and lords say.

The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said ministers added to public misunderstanding about the act by making "unfounded assertions".

It welcomed the government's move to debunk myths about the act.

It had examined the effect of the act after three high-profile cases prompted calls for it to be amended or repealed.

Scapegoat

One case involved a High Court ruling that nine Afghani hijackers could not be returned to Afghanistan because they faced a real risk on torture.

In the second case, the chief inspector of probation published a report into murderer Anthony Rice, who killed Naomi Bryant following his release from prison on licence.

A prison service report said officials were side-tracked by considering Rice's human rights above their duties to the public.

And the third case was about the failure to consider foreign prisoners for deportation - the government suggested that the Human Rights Act, as interpreted by the courts, was blocking such deportation.

The committee concluded: "In each case, the Human Rights Act has been used as a convenient scapegoat for unrelated administrative failings within government."

The Human Rights Act has been used as a convenient scapegoat for unrelated administrative failings within government
Joint Select Committee on Human Rights

The committee also looked at reviews by the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The departments had conducted reviews after the cases, which all came to prominence in May, prompted concern that the act was preventing the government from ensuring public safety.

The committee's report added that the government - "from the prime minister down" - was directly responsible for creating the public impression that the act itself, or misinterpretations of the act by officials or judges, had caused the problems.

Chairman of the committee, Andrew Dismore, said: "We are extremely concerned that the Human Rights Act has been getting the blame for ministerial or administrative failings when it has nothing to do with those failings."

The committee highlighted benefits from the act, for example the fact that older people in residential care homes have received better protection against home closures, as well as other benefits for disabled people; for carers and council tenants.

"We are convinced that more needs to be done to explain that the act can be a force for good for the people of this country, as well as debunking negative myths about it," the committee said.

Last month, the Lord Chancellor launched a guide for the Parole Board, teachers and social workers on how to apply the laws without endangering public safety.

At the time Lord Falconer acknowledged that human rights laws have been wrongly interpreted by some officials.


SEE ALSO
Falconer defends human rights law
28 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
Common sense vow on human rights
25 Jul 06 |  UK Politics

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