Defence of Human Rights Act Causes Insult

October 22, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer speaking at a press conference, September 2009 (Getty Images)
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer speaking at a press conference, September 2009 (Getty Images)
LONDON—The Director of Public Prosecutions offended Conservative MPs on Wednesday night after he championed the Human Rights Act, which the Conservative Party wants to repeal.

In a speech to mark his first year in office, Keir Starmer said that the UK was one of the builders of the 1950 convention on which the Act is based.

He said the rights protected in the Act are "basic; they are fundamental; and I venture to suggest that, for the majority of us, they are so much a part of our way of life that we take them for granted".

The Human Rights Act, which was passed by Parliament in 1998 and made law in 2000, is blamed for leniency to terrorists, helping them take refuge in Britain, and for making it difficult to deport people accused of major crimes.

Conservative leader David Cameron suggests the Act puts the rights of criminals before those of law-abiding citizens, citing the inability to bring Learco Chindamo, who murdered headteacher Philip Lawrence in 1995, to be tried in the UK because of human rights concerns.

As the Act adheres to the European Convention of Human Rights, the Conservative Party, who dislike European interventions, would replace it with a British Bill of Rights if they form the next government.

Some Tory MPs asked for Mr Starmer to be sacked as it is unprecedented for the DPP to make remarks which appear to criticise a political party's policy.

Appointed last year for five years by the attorney general, Baroness Scotland, Mr Starmer will be in post until halfway through the next Parliament.

He was Human Rights Lawyer of the Year 2001 and acted for two terror suspects in 2007, which went to the House of Lords and led to the control order system for terror suspects being declared unlawful.

After Mr Starmer's speech, support for the Human Rights Act was reaffirmed by the Liberal Democrats, Liberty and Britain's top judge.