Should Human Rights Laws Protect Criminals?

I recently read an interesting in the Guardian which informed me that a Nigerian fraudster has been allowed to remain in the UK under human rights laws. The UK Border Agency had tried to deport the individual but, on appeal, it was decided that he should be allowed to remain in the UK as removal would interfere with his right to a family and private life under Article 8 ECHR.

The case involved an individual who had committed fraud and conned the Government out of thousands of pounds using false benefits claims. The UK Border Agency were attempting to deport following his prison sentence, and the matter was taken to appeal. This individual had overstayed on his visa in 1996 and the UK Border Agency made the decision to remove him from the UK but took no action to enforce the decision. He was therefore granted indefinite leave to remain in 2002 and he now has a six year old son with legal residence in the UK. The Guardian article argued that the case highlighted how Article 8 can be used to overturn the Government effort to throw foreign crooks out of the UK.

This case has obviously got many people talking about human rights laws, and whether they have been taken too far to protect individuals who do not deserve protection. There are, as always two sides to the argument.

On one side many people would argue that any foreign national with a criminal conviction should be removed from the UK, and that human rights law should not protect them. In fact David Cameron, Theresa May and many other MP’s are campaigning to reform human rights law, in particular Article 8. They state that Article 8 should not be used as a bar for deporting serious criminals. And many people would agree with this.

However the issue, as with all immigration matters in the UK, is not black and white. The courts must balance a person’s rights against the rights of the public as a whole. For instance there are cases when a criminal may have children to support, in some cases the children are British citizens. We then enter a mine field of children’s rights. The child has the right to live with, have contact with, and be supported by their parents. When a Judge has to decide whether to separate a parent from a child who has a right to be in the UK then they will almost always allow the parent to remain.

I am of the opinion that human rights law in the UK is something that we should be extremely proud of. There are many countries in the world that have absolutely no respect for human rights. We do not want to take a step backwards when we are such a shining example to many other countries.

To me the Guardian have also failed to highlight the failings of the UK Immigration System. They state that a decision was made to remove this individual in 1996, yet no action was taken to enforce removal. Due to the delay in dealing with his case he built up residence in the UK and was granted indefinite leave to remain. This surely highlights a major failing of the current system, in that the Government should have dealt with this matter when they made a decision in 1996.

What do you think of these issues? It would be interesting to hear what you think about human rights law in the UK and whether you feel they are too protective.