Sir John Laws, the longest-serving appeal judge, has challenged the rule of Lord Bingham that Strasbourg should be the final authority on convention.
The European Court in Strasbourg is not supposed to have the last word on interpreting human rights convention. According to Sir John Laws, the national courts should make and follow their own interpretations of human rights issues. He stated this while giving one of his Hamlyn lectures in London in November 2013. He, as the longest-serving lord justice of appeal, questioned one important principle established by Lord Bingham 10 years ago. He had postulated that the correct interpretation for a case, called Ullah, can only be made by the human rights court in Strasbourg. Those states that have agreed to the convention, should all accept a uniform meaning for it.
However, Laws expressed his disagreement with this statement. According to him, the Strasbourg court should acknowledge that different cases on human right issues have different facts and therefore, require different answers. Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, also believes that the human rights court has tried to become a supreme court of Europe and needs to refocus its sphere of authority. However, it is important to note that Laws has made clear that he does not question the court’s powers to make rulings that bind the UK under international law.
It is required that the UK abides by the final judgment of the court under Article 46. Furthermore, section 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires courts in the UK to consider the decisions of the Strasbourg court. However, this did not require states to follow Strasbourg rulings completely towards other countries.
The role of the human rights is to protect the fundamental values of people, said Laws. Human rights should not deal with minor choices on which people can easily disagree in the path of logic and humanity.
Furthermore, the potential supremacy of the EU court in Luxembourg and the human rights court in Strasbourg might challenge the effective development of the English common law.
English law has been developing through importing continental components and thus has been continuously refined. Such principles were legitimate expectation and proportionality, plus the law of privacy. Those laws became part of the English law through Laws’ career as a barrister and a judge.