Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Community sentences ~ Prisoner votes ~ European matters ~ Police Commissioners

Toughening Community Sentences:

The Ministry of Justice has brought forward proposals aimed at Toughening Community Sentences   A fuller explanation of the proposed changes has also been published - Community Sentences to deliver proper punishment.    The government's ideas will be brought into law via the Crime and Courts Bill which is currently before the House of Lords.  The detail of the changes may be seen in the various Bill documents - Amendment Papers.  The changes proceed, as is so often the case, by technique of "cutting and pasting" new sections into existing Acts.

Prisoner Voting:

Permitting serving prisoners to vote is anathema to many politicians (including the Prime Minister who is made "physically sick" by the idea) and members of the public. Against that,
others see that permitting some serving prisoners to vote will perhaps assist in any rehabilitative process - perhaps, for instance, allowing prisoners serving less than 4 years to vote.  The European Court of Human Rights came out against the present blanket ban which denies the vote to all serving prisoners other than those on "remand."  Today, it is reported that Ministers are in talks about this issue.  Some proposal or other must emerge in the next few weeks.  BBC 24th October.  It is unlikely that the British government will wish to be seen to be in open defiance of the court's ruling.

In December 2010 the government announced its intention to bring forward legislation to permit voting by prisoners serving under 4 years but this fell by the wayside after The Commons voted decisively in February 2011 to retain the ban.

It is the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe which is tasked with monitoring implementation of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.  The CoE is NOT the EU.

Prisoner Voting - Parliament - Briefing Paper 

Joshua Rozenberg - Prisoner votes row will lose the government respect - The Guardian 24th October.

Defending the European Court of Human Rights:

The retiring President of the European Court of Human Rights (Sir Nicolas Bratza) has robustly defended the court - see The Guardian' report which ends:

Would [Sir Nicolas] apply for one of the three vacancies for justices advertised this week by the UK's supreme court? "I have been out of the UK as a judge for 14 years," he said. "So the idea of going back where I would have a maximum of two and a half years [on the bench before retirement] to pick up the threads in the UK … would not really be advisable. I have made my judicial career here and that's probably where it will end. I have adored it. It's been a wonderful job."

The European Union ~ some updates:

The Foreign Secretary (William Hague) has made an interesting speech pointing to a changed relationship between the UK and Europe.   He said:

"This Coalition Government is committed to Britain playing a leading role in the EU but I must also be frank: public disillusionment with the EU in Britain is the deepest it has ever been. People feel that in too many ways the EU is something that is done to them, not something over which they have a say. The way in Britain Lisbon was ratified without any consultation of the voters has played a part in that. People feel that the EU is a one way process, a great machine that sucks up decision-making from national parliaments to the European level until everything is decided by the EU. That needs to change. If we cannot show that decision-making can flow back to national parliaments then the system will become democratically unsustainable. Subsidiarity must really mean something."

This speech is a follow on from an announcement in July - Review of the Balance of Competencies between the UK and the EU.  Government Departments are drawing up reports over the next 2 years.

Mr Hague also said - "We are also looking at the right balance on Justice and Home Affairs given our distinct legal tradition."  This refers to the possible UK "opt-out" discussed in Opt Outs and the EU - Friday 19th October.

2012 is the 20th Anniversary of the so-called "Single Market" and a major initiative in the EU is the Single Market Act II.   This will build on Single Market Act I (April 2011). 

The week just gone (15-20 October 2012) was Single Market Week.  Under the theme "Together for new growth", a week-long series of events took place across the EU to enable policy-makers and citizens to discuss the achievements and challenges of the single market and come up with new ideas.

It was not until the Single European Act, SEA (1986) that a deadline of 1992 was set for the full completion of the single market. This involved: the removal of barriers to movement of people; the harmonisation of national standards; rules on how governments buy services and goods; the liberalisation of financial institution; the setting of more standard Value Added Tax (VAT) rates, and European business laws. In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty began the final leg - Economic and Monetary Union. This came into being in 1999.   For many, monetary union is a step too far.

Police and Crime Commissioners:

Meanwhile, back home,  the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners are about 3 weeks away.  The New Statesman has published - Ten Reasons why police commissioner elections leave us cold.  This is a "flagship" law and policy of the present government which appears to have been particularly badly implemented.

2nd December 2010 - Elected Police Commissioners: is this a good move?

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