In his speech, Mr Blunt commented that punishment alone is not enough. "We also need to make sure that we rehabilitate offenders. For the truth is, under almost any system, most offenders will eventually return to the community. If we haven’t addressed their propensity to commit crime, we are not keeping the public safe. It is only through cutting reoffending that we can reduce crime over the long-term."
for a scrap with the Council of Europe over Prisoner Voting rights - see Politicshome. Is it not the case that a strong argument for giving prisoners voting rights is that it could have a rehabilitative possibility? The "Straw-Davis" motion to be debated in Parliament reads - "That this House notes the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst v the United Kingdom in which it held that there had been no substantive debate by members of the legislature on the continued justification for maintaining a general restriction on the right of prisoners to vote; acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK; is of the opinion that legislative decisions of this nature should be a matter for democratically elected lawmakers; and supports the current situation in which no sentenced prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand." It would have been more accurate for the motion to have said that the European Court noted the absence of debate in the U.K. Parliament on the matter since it is not for the Court to dictate what must be debated and the court did not attempt to do so. Given the trend which is evident in the European Court's decisions on voting it is likely that continued denial of the vote to prisoners will result in successful human rights claims against the United Kingdom and also result in the U.K. being declared in breach of its human rights obligations under the Convention. The possible consequences of the latter are not clear at the moment. Please see also the earlier post on Law and Lawyers 20th January.
Other important recent cases have been the Supreme Court decisions in Yemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow 2011 where domestic violence was considered in the context of housing law - see Law and Lawyers 31st January. and ZH (Tanzania) v Home Secretary - judgment and press release.
A mother appealed to the Supreme Court against her deportation arguing that it would disproportionately interfere with her private and family life as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. ZH came to the U.K. in 1995. ZH had an "appalling immigration history" (per Lady Hale). She made asylum claims using false names but these were rejected. She formed a relationship with a British citizen and had two children who are now aged 12 and 9. The children are British and have lived here all their lives. Their parents separated in 2005 but the father continues to have contact with them. Was it reasonable to expect the children to leave the U.K. with their mother? The Court of Appeal thought so. When the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, the Home Secretary had accepted that deportation of the mother would be disproportionate but was concerned about the general principles to be applied in these cases by the authorities (e.g. the U.K. Border Agency etc). The Supreme Court stated that the "best interests" of the children included deciding whether it was reasonable to expect them to live elsewhere. Their nationality - (and, presumably, life history) - was of importance in assessing their best interests and those best interests were a primary consideration in making the proportionality assessment required by Article 8. The judgment of Lady Hale contains observations about how the views of the children should be ascertained - para. 34 onwards.
An interesting view about this case is expressed by Rosalind English on the U.K. Human Rights blog - "Analysis: Children's "best interests" and the problem of balance." Although the Supreme Court stated that the child's "best interests" might be outweighed by the cumulative effect of other considerations it is practically speaking very difficult to think of a set of circumstances where a deportation might now be possible where there are dependent children who hold British citizenship.
Addendum 4th February 2011: See the Jailhouselawyers blog for considerable discussion on the Prisoner Voting issue. See also "Prisoner voting: Convicts are human beings with human rights" - Thomas Hammarberg in The Guardian 4th February 2011. Hammarberg is the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner. The UK Human Rights blog has previously posted on this subject - "Council of Europe warns UK again over prisoner voting rights" - UK HR blog 19th November 2010 and "European Court of Human Rights sharpens its teeth" - UKHR blog 2nd June 2010. Please also see the comments to this post.