UK Politics

Your questions to Clive Coleman

Clive Coleman Image copyright Clive Coleman

The Conservatives have set out detailed plans for limiting the power of European judges who make rulings on human rights.

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, says the party is prepared to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) - unless the UK is allowed to disregard decisions made in Strasbourg.

The BBC's Legal Correspondent Clive Coleman answered your questions in a live Twitter Q&A.

This is an edited version of the session:

Question from @PyroClaire: Do lawyers think these plans a) are workable or b) will change very much at all?

Clive answers: Depends on the lawyers! Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve pointed to 'howlers'. The Justice Secretary says a panel of top QC's have overseen it. The proposals would change a lot. It could lead to the UK leaving Council of Europe, ECHR rulings won't be binding, and rights for some, limited.

Question from @davemcardle: Do the Tories think you can pull out of ECHR but still stay in the EU and if so what's the legal basis for that?

Clive answers: A complex question. Tories say in effect, rules of the club need to change for the UK. If that's not acceptable, UK will withdraw from ECHR. Justice of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, says withdrawing from Strasbourg Court would require the UK to leave the EU. Many lawyers agree with this analysis.

Question from Eboracum via email: Could someone please explain why we also need the European Court of Human Rights?

Clive answers: The ECHR ensures countries don't breach rights enshrined in the Convention. If a minority group in UK has its rights breached and UK courts fail to uphold them, ECHR there to protect.

Question from @paulistapark: Parliament is bound by rulings of ECHR whether the HRA is repealed or not, so what's the point of a new Bill?

Clive answers: Fair point. If HRA is scrapped, the UK is still signed up to ECHR. If HRA is scrapped and UK leaves convention it's a different story. If the UK left the Convention, the Bill of Rights would include responsibilities and limit some rights for groups who abuse responsibilities.

Question from @john4london: Do British Government commitments given as part of the Good Friday Agreement make it illegal for us to try and scrap the HRA?

Clive answers: Challenging. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve raised this as a real problem on Radio 4's Today. UK parliament is supreme so could in theory change the law in Northern Ireland, but difficult with the way devolution stands.

Question from @MikeSpencerLaw: How will the new Bill redefine "torture and inhuman and degrading treatment"?

Clive answers: Proposals say it will put EU Convention into UK law, so torture likely be as was, but Bill will clarify some rights.

Question from @pjkeeling91: How often does the ECHR find a human rights violation by the UK?

Clive answers: Extremely rarely. The UK government wins the overwhelming majority of cases.

For more tweets from Clive Coleman you can follow his Twitter account.