Monday, 23 November 2009

European Convention on Human Rights.

Sorry to harp back to the EDL in Wrecsam on Saturday but I believe there are important points on which we the public were misled by the Police and the Council. The Chief Officer for Emergency Planning Lawrence Isted sent out a briefing note to all elected members explaining the rationale behind the Council's decision to remain neutral:
The Council remains neutral and neither endorses nor condemns the proposed demonstration or the community event, based on advice from the Police...The Council does not support and is not involved in planning or organising either the event or demonstration/counter demonstration. The Council does not have the authority to ban a demonstration from taking place. Only the Police can do this. Under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights Act there is an obligation placed on the Police to facilitate peaceful protest and North Wales Police will therefore facilitate the demonstration/festival and the collective rights of the participants.

So the EDL have the right to free speech and the right to assemble under Articles 10 and 11 of European Convention on Human Rights. But rights under these 2 articles are not 'absolute rights' they can be restricted in certain circumstances and those are:

* in the interest of national security or public security;
* or to prevent crime or disorder;
* or to protect health or morals;
* or when to protect the rights or freedoms of others;

GLJohn's Blog gives a very useful summary of how the law in the UK has been influenced by the ECHR:
There are a few notable restrictions that have been applied to the right to expression in the UK in respect to racial and religious crime.

In Norwood the defendant was prosecuted under s.5 of the Public Order Act 1986, for ‘causing alarm or distress’ by displaying a poster from his window with the slogan ‘ISLAM OUT OF BRITAIN’. It was held that Article 10 could be curtailed in order to protect the rights and freedoms of others. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 has amended the Public Order Act so that under Part 3A, incitement to Religious Hatred has become a criminal offence in its own right. However, s.29(j) seeks to protect freedom of expression by excluding from the scope of Part 3A: mere discussion, criticism, dislike or ridicule of a particular religion or belief.

The behaviour of the EDL outside Wetherspoons in Wrecsam on Saturday constituted of both inciting religious and racial hatred and as such their Article 10 and 11 rights could have been restricted had the Police had the will to do so.


Anonymous said...

It's also true that the council was among many organisations that sent out misleading information:

"Members may be aware of the English & Welsh Defence League’s (EWDL) intentions to gather and demonstrate in Queens Square, Wrexham on the 21st and of the likelihood that there will be a counter demonstration by such groups and Unite Against Fascism."

Rather than play up the possibility of confrontation by confusing the anti-racist festival with the EDL protest, the council could have taken a lead. Instead it buried its head in the sand and cried "neutrality".

This was only beaten by Glyndwr University talking of widespread violent confrontations in the town on the day and urging students and staff to stay away - a great advert for the town!

Pravda Cymru said...

The Human Rights Act is UK law, full stop. There is no such animal as described by the council officer. The separate ECHR is an international treaty outside the EU.

Also, the UK has opted out of the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon.

The words 'twist' and 'knickers' seem appropriate here. Frightening.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Anonymous - Agree entirely with what you say about the council I was at that confidential Executive Board meeting where the Police and Council were more concerned with the UAF causing a confrontation than supporting WCAR's festival...will probably end up in front of the Standards Committee for saying that...but hey ho!

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Pravda Cymru:
The aim of the Human Rights Act 1998 was to give FURTHER EFFECT in UK law to the rights contained in the ECHR.

Iolo said...

Voltaire should not only be turning in his grave he should be spinning like a Fairground Waltzer.

Freedom of speech underpins democracy.
Our politicians attempted to exclude MP's expenses from the Freedom of Information act.
... Read more
The EDL deserves to suffer in the same spotlight of contempt that our political representatives in Parliament have received.

Don't gag them, let them talk themselves into a political grave of their own making.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Iolo - You cannot allow people to go around trying to restrict the freedom or rights of others by quoting Article 10 and 11 and then ignoring the restrictions placed i.e. the likelihood of crime and disorder which is exactly what happened in Wrecsam.