European Court 'hate figure' in UK
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is criticised more regularly and overtly by Britain than any of the other 47 countries in which its jurisdiction runs, its outgoing president said.
Writing in the Independent, Sir Nicolas Bratza, who is British, said it was "frustrating" and "disappointing" to see the court becoming a "hate figure" in the UK.
The court, based in Strasbourg, was once again in the spotlight as Prime Minister David Cameron flatly ruled out giving prisoners the vote, a decision that put him at loggerheads with his chief law officer and an ECHR ruling against a blanket ban.
Giving evidence to MPs, Attorney General Dominic Grieve said the ruling imposed "an international legal obligation on us". But Mr Cameron told the Commons: "No-one should be in any doubt. Prisoners are not getting the vote under this government."
Writing about the European court system, Sir Nicolas said: "The UK's contribution to that system has been immense. It is therefore frustrating and disappointing to see that, largely because of a single judgment concerning the right to vote of some categories of convicted prisoners, the court has become a sort of hate figure, not just in the popular press, but also in the soundbites of politicians, some of them senior, and, even more disturbingly, judges - again some of them senior."
Sir Nicolas also said the Government had a range of options to comply with the ECHR ruling and that there were "workable and politically acceptable solutions".
He also said it was no surprise that public opinion about the court in the UK has been "overwhelmingly negative".
Sir Nicolas wrote: "With regard to the popular press, this is perhaps not unexpected. The rule of law requires that even the most - deservedly - unpopular persons are entitled to the same protection as anyone else. This is well-nigh impossible to sell to public opinion.
"To explain that a person who is committed to destroying the society in which you live is entitled to the protection which is the hallmark of that society - and, indeed, ultimately what preserves it - is a challenge most politicians are not prepared to take up."
Mr Cameron's official spokesman earlier denied that the PM was in disagreement with the Attorney General on prisoner voting, saying that the "single government view" on the issue was that prisoners should not get the vote.