Why the UK should not leave the ECHR – 1828 – Championing Freedom

Why the UK should not leave the ECHR


FEBRUARY 23, 2023

According to reports this month, the Prime Minister would contemplate withdrawing the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if the government’s policies on small boats are found to violate the ECHR. This would be the wrong decision. 

The ECHR is an international treaty – separate from the European Union – which most European countries committed to after the Second World War, obliging them to respect fundamental human rights.

The ECHR has been decisive in protecting important human rights against intrusive and coercive state powers when domestic law and politics have failed. These three cases demonstrate why the UK should remain a member of the ECHR.

The mass DNA database of the innocent: 

Until 2010, in England and Wales the police had the power to take and retain DNA samples from all people arrested for criminal offences. This retention had no time limit, and happened regardless of the seriousness of the offence, the age of the suspect, or whether the person was eventually charged and convicted of the offence.  

In 2003, the highest UK court concluded that this practice was lawful. The judges decided that the potential value of DNA evidence to solving crimes outweighed the interests of innocent people in having their private information deleted from a police database.  

By contrast, in 2008 in a case called S and Marper v United Kingdom, the Strasbourg Court – the international court that interprets the ECHR – concluded that this practice was a disproportionate interference with people’s right to respect for their private life (Article 8 ECHR). While the Strasbourg Court agreed that DNA evidence was essential in the fight against crime, it added that this could not justify a blanket state power to retain innocent people’s DNA forever.  

This is a critical example of the ECHR being used to promote proportionate, targeted government action, rather than excessive, precautionary, and absolutist interferences. 

Arbitrary terrorism stop-and-searches: 

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, senior police officers could authorise any uniformed officer within a defined geographic area to stop-and-search any person or vehicle for articles connected with terrorism. These searches could be conducted randomly without any suspicion of criminality. Refusal to submit was a criminal offence. In London, this authorisation had been granted on a rolling basis for five years. The public was not told when an authorisation was in place. 

The highest UK court concluded that not only was this power lawful, but that in many instances it did not even interfere with people’s privacy. As one of the judges put it:  

“I am…doubtful whether an ordinary superficial search of the person can be said to show a lack of respect for private life…I incline to the view that an ordinary superficial search of the person and an opening of bags…can scarcely be said to reach that level.” (para.28). 

This sentiment was common among the senior British judiciary. In a similar case, the judge remarked that people should not be “over precious” about minor infringements of their privacy by the police “which are the price today of participation in numerous lawful activities conducted in large groups of people.” 

By contrast, in 2010 in the case of Gillan & Quintan v United Kingdom, the Strasbourg Court concluded that there was a violation of the right to respect for people’s private life. Finding against the “put up with it” attitude of the British courts, the Strasbourg Court was insistent that: 

“The use of…coercive powers…to require an individual to submit to a detailed search of their person, clothing and personal belongings amounted to a clear interference with the right to respect for private life.” 

The Strasbourg Court also determined that this was an arbitrary power with too few safeguards against abuse and misuse to be considered lawful.  

Again, the ECHR promoted a more proportionate, targeted approach to state power. 

Public interest journalism

Between 1958 and 1961, a drug called thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women in the UK as a sedative. Sadly, this drug caused severe physical disabilities in fetuses and around 450 babies were born with life-changing conditions. In the early 1970s, affected families brought legal action against the drugs company and entered negotiations for financial settlements.  

The Sunday Times wished to publish stories related to the company’s negligence. Instead, the drugs company lobbied the Attorney-General to institute contempt proceedings to restrain publication of the stories. The British courts granted a broad injunction preventing The Sunday Times “by themselves, their servants, [or] agents” from “publishing, or causing or authorising…to be published” anything which “prejudges” the legal issues related to thalidomide.  

The Strasbourg Court took a different approach. In 1979, in the case of Sunday Times v United Kingdom, the Strasbourg Court concluded that this was a violation of the newspaper’s freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR). While the Court recognised the need for limitations on freedom of expression to ensure the fair administration of justice, the judges were struck by the breadth of the prohibition on journalistic speech imposed by the British courts.  

As the Strasbourg Court put it: “Not only do the media have the task of imparting such information and ideas: the public also has a right to receive them.”  

There are many reasons why it would be a bad idea for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR. Because we would be joining Russia and Belarus in being the only European countries who are not signatories. Because it would undermine the UK’s reputation as a leading centre for the rule of law and human rights. Because it would undermine the international rules-based order when it is already on life support. But the best reason is because the ECHR works.

The effective protection of liberty and human rights requires a network of measures – political, social, economic, legal, domestic, and international. The ECHR will never be the only solution, but it is part of the solution, and the UK should remain a committed member.

Lee Marsons is a Senior Researcher at Public Law Project and can be followed on Twitter @LeeGTMarsons 



This is odious language. There are no “vexatious prosecutions” in this jurisdiction. In the context of current talks!!!

Sinn Féin leader in the North Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy and NI Secretary of State Julian Smith


Relatives 4 Justice

This is odious language. There are no “vexatious prosecutions” in this jurisdiction. In the context of current talks

Let England hang her name in shame #BloodySunday #Ballymurphy

must clarify to families tonight if this is his Gov policy or will this Gov meet its legal obligations to families under international law?

Quote Tweet
Johnny Mercer

Transparent goal setting in public office is important. You pay my wages; here’s the priorities




7:28 PM · Jan 3, 2020Twitter for iPhone
With many thanks to: Johnny Mercer for the original posting on Twitter 


” We are surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court but nevertheless bound by its ruling ” – Peter Murphy.

LURGAN Republican Martin Corey has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the refusal to allow his defence team access to ‘closed intelligence’ used to keep him behind bars for the past three years.


English: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of...
English: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 63-year-old has been held in Maghaberry Prison since 2010 after his life licence was revoked by the then Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, on the basis of “closed material”. His defence team, led by solicitor Peter Murphy, have argued that they are prevented from defending against allegations that he is a danger to public safety because three successive secretaries of state have refused to disclose “confidential intelligence”. The lawyer says they will consider taking a human rights case to the European court at Strasbourg. Corey, who served a life sentence for the joint-enterprise murder of two members of the RUC in 1973, was released from prison on licence in 1992. In April 2010, when he was working as a grave digger, he was arrested and his licence was revoked. In 2011 he was refused parole.

During a High Court appeal in July 2012 Mr Justice Treacy found that the Parole Commissioners had acted in breach of the Lurgan man’s human Rights and that insufficient detail about the allegations had been provided to him. The judge ruled that Corey should be released on bail immediately but this decision was overturned within hours by then secretaty of state, Owen Paterson. Yesterday Mr Murphy said : “We harbour the greatest concerns about the authenticity and strength of these allegations that have seen Mr Corey, deprived of his liberty for over three years. “In short, we see this as internment 2013 and if there is any real confidence on the part of the secretary of state [Theresa Villiers] that only one of these allegations is true, then we would challenge those responsible for having Mr Corey incarcersted to initiate a proper investigation and if needs be charge Mr Corey. “We are surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court but are nevertheless bound by it’s ruling. “We will now however be seeking to have our client’s basic human rights and specifically the right to challenge the ongoing deprivation of his liberty, vindicated by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg”. Jim Mcllmurry, who acts as a spokesman for Corey, said : “Martin has come to expect little, and often less, when it comes to the justice system in the North of Ireland. “Our attendence at the Supreme Court in London would have given us the opportunity to expose many aspects of this case which I feel would not be found acceptable in any English court. “He has served what amounts to a six-year sentence without ever being questioned, charged or sentenced.”

With many thanks to : Allison Morris, Irish News.



Angela Nelson

Below I have posted an update on Martin Corey which explains the events of yesterday. Martin has once more been denied basic human rights through a corrupt system led by the Sec of State, Teresa Villiers and the British Government. Everything his legal Representatives try, to reach some sort of conclusion on Martin’s Administrative Detention is being thwarted. He has served a 6 year sentence to date with no charges leveled against him. This news is “Soul destroying” for Marin and his family. Please read and share.


Latest update on Martin Corey from his friend Jim McIlmurray.


At 4:50 pm yesterday, May 2, 2013, I received the news that the High Court had overruled the application to take Martin’s case to the Supreme Court in London.


This devastating news came without warning. Martin’s legal team has spent months building his case with such strong conviction that I feel it would have ensured his immediate release under the European Convention on Human Rights.


In July 2012, a Belfast High Court judge ordered Martin’s immediate release, which was overturned within hours by the then unelected Secretary of State, Owen Patterson.


This decision was challenged in the High Court and the case concluded unsuccessfully in December 2012 with the three-man panel of judges upholding the directive of Owen Patterson. At that stage, an application was made to appeal the High Court’s decision in the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court in London.


I spoke with Martin this evening and informed him of the news. Martin has come to expect little, and often accept less, when it comes to the justice system in the North of Ireland.


Our attendance at the Supreme Court in London would have given us the opportunity to expose many aspects of this case which I feel would not be found acceptable in any English court. The fact that the Secretary of State could hand out directives, dismissing decisions by High Court judges, would have been highlighted in the Supreme Court in London, exposing the fact that politicians in the north of Ireland rule the judiciary. The biggest disappointment has to be the fact that had we not received justice in the Supreme Court in London, we would have had the opening to bring Martin’s case to the European Court of Human rights. This is an avenue we can still explore, but without having exhausted every domestic court in the country due to our denial to attend the Supreme Court, it will be somewhat harder to achieve a hearing within a realistic timescale.


Martin has now been in Maghaberry Prison for over three years. The course of the law states, as I understand it, if you have committed a crime, you are: questioned, charged, tried in court, sentenced, and then imprisoned. Within the past three years, Martin has NEVER been questioned, charged, or sentenced. He has served what amounts to a SIX YEAR sentence.


We are currently awaiting a confirmed date for a parole hearing. Martin is entitled to an annual Parole Board Review. In February of this year the European Court of Human Rights stated that 13 months was an unacceptable period of time for a prisoner to wait for a parole hearing. Martin has now waited 19 MONTHS WITHOUT A PAROLE REVIEW.


Today’s announcement of the High Court ruling has been a bitter blow to the campaign for his release, but it will not undermine my determination in seeking his release. If anything, it will harden my resolve for justice.


We need to expose this continuing tyranny. British government officials are quick enough to state that the world’s worst human rights abusers are Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan. Over the past three years I have witnessed first hand everything these officials have done to Martin and I feel the British government is making a mockery of truth by not including its own name on the list above.





STOP the EXTRADITION of Liam Campbell to Lithuania

STOP the EXTRADITION of Liam Campbell to Lithuania on trumped up ALLEGATIONS!! Lithuania’s prison regime has continuously drawn severe criticism from both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT) and the European Court of Human Rights. Furthermore, leading global Human Rights organisations have continuously highlighted blatant violations of BASIC Lithuanian prisoner human rights! END the ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ attitude of the Stormont Executive & The Dáil on this issue!! Where is the ‘Island of Ireland’ rhetoric NOW!! beir bua!!


%d bloggers like this: