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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 15:45 GMT
Blitz on human rights 'nonsense'
Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer has defended human rights legislation
A more "common sense" approach to human rights laws is needed by public bodies who sometimes misinterpret them, the Lord Chancellor is to say.

Lord Falconer has said the importance of the Human Rights Act has been "clouded by nonsense".

The Tories have said they would scrap the Act altogether claiming it is being abused by criminals.

But Lord Falconer said that if rulings do not make common sense, then the Act has been wrongly interpreted.

He will give a speech later at Manchester University, to set out a campaign to explain the Act to public rights workers.

'Absolute nonsense'

It follows several reports of cases, where the rights of criminals appear to have been put above public safety.

These include a convicted paedophile being allowed to use a gym shared by school pupils and a suspected car thief who was served fried chicken during a 20-hour siege.

Lord Falconer told the BBC that was "absolute nonsense".

It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for government ministers to defend their flagship legislation
David Heath
Liberal Democrats

"Common sense would tell you are not entitled to food if you are running away from the police. You are not entitled to not have your photograph shown if you are a convicted murderer on the run."

He added: "What we are trying to do is to bust these myths".

In some cases press reporting incorrectly attributed decisions to human rights legislation he said.

But he admitted: "There have been problems with how human rights and the Human Rights Act have been interpreted."

Ministers' 'scapegoat'

Ministers have also been warned to stop using the act as a "convenient scapegoat" for government failings, by the joint select committee on human rights.

And David Heath MP, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for government ministers to defend their flagship legislation.

"Indeed, sometimes they seem to have led ill-informed criticism, rather than rebutted it."

It remains to be seen whether Lord Falconer's speech can be translated into action on the ground
Dominic Grieve

The Conservatives say the Act should be replaced with a British Bill of Rights that complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve said: "Lord Falconer has acknowledged that some of the interpretations of the Human Rights Act have been both absurd and wrong.

"It remains to be seen, however, whether Lord Falconer's speech can be translated into action on the ground and if common sense will prevail among public authorities."

There were reports of plans to make sweeping changes to human rights laws last year - but a government review recommended that new guidance should be given on interpreting the Act instead.

Lord Falconer's department will work with staff in "frontline services", like education, probation and the police, to make sure the laws are being interpreted correctly.

A handbook explaining key human rights principles for public officials has also been produced.

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