The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases and (in respect of England, Wales and Northern Ireland) for criminal cases. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population. In our constitution, it is the court of last resort.
It is not supposed to usurp the legislative supremacy of parliament. In other words, it should not make up completely new legislation and it should not have the power to ‘strike down’ legislation passed by parliament.
However, it is required to interpret domestic law consistently with European Union law. Specifically, it must give effect to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. And this, bizarrely, can lead to statutory provisions being rewritten, effectively undermining parliamentary supremacy. By virtue of Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it must abide by final decisions of the Strasbourg Court.
In 2009, Lord Phillips, now president of the Supreme Court, said torture in another country does not require the UK “to retain in this country, to the detriment of national security, a terrorist suspect”.
Yesterday, this view was trumped by a British immigration court siding with European judges. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled against the deportation of Al Qaeda preacher Abu Qatada, declaring it would be a breach of his human rights to put him on a plane to face terror charges in Jordan.
Is it right that Strasbourg’s unaccountable, often poorly qualified judges intervene in Britain’s affairs in this way? Are we really in breach of universal and inalienable human rights if we decide to deport someone who is considered by our government to be a serious risk to our national security? Whose rights are paramount? If the European Court of Human Rights will not refrain from imposing its will in these matters, we must prevail upon our government to sever ties and safeguard our sovereignty.