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Labour vow on courts' sovereignty

British courts will be given powers to ignore rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) under a Labour government, according to Sadiq Khan.

Judges will be given new guidance that sets out how they do not have "dance to the tune of Strasbourg" and the move would be enshrined in law if necessary , the shadow justice secretary said.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he insists the Human Rights Act was deliberately drafted to protect the supremacy of British courts by stating they only have to take into account ECHR judgments, not be bound by them.

But Mr Khan concedes the legislation has not always been interpreted that way.

He told the newspaper : "I want British courts to be clear that they don't have to dance to the tune of Strasbourg.

"That's not what was intended when the legislation was drafted and debated extensively in Parliament back in 1998.

" Too often, rather than 'taking into account' Strasbourg rulings and by implication, finding their own way, our courts have acted as if these rulings were binding on their decisions," he added.

"As a result, the sovereignty of our courts and the will of Parliament have both been called into question. This needs sorting out."

Labour sources said people would still be able to take their appeal cases to Strasbourg but insisted British courts would be able to disagree with what the ECHR said.

The changes will not have any impact on the row over giving some prisoners the right to vote, however, because the case is "too far down the line", they added.

Mr Khan insisted the plans do not alter "Labour's unswerving support for the Human Rights Act" or membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added: " We believe we can achieve this shifting of power back to our courts by publishing guidance alone, but I don't rule out re-legislating to make things doubly clear if matters don't improve. By doing so, we'll allow our courts to make a distinctively British contribution to the development and protection of human rights.

"At a time when people are profoundly unhappy about the way the country is run, it is incumbent on all of us as politicians to deal with people's concerns in a practical, measured way. Unfortunately, on human rights, the Tories appear more interested in playing to the gallery than coming up with solutions."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "The Human Rights Act is crystal clear that British judges are not bound by Strasbourg. Scrap the Act and European judges would have sole jurisdiction over human rights in Britain.

"So the threat to sovereignty, like the threat to our freedoms, comes from dull and distant politicians, desperate to sound relevant."


From Belfast Telegraph