Election 2017: May moots human rights changes as vote looms

Theresa May has promised to make changes to human rights laws if they prevent terror suspects being deported.

Ten, police, politics, government

The Prime Minister has come under fire in the wake of terror attacks in London and Manchester for making cuts to police numbers during her time as Home Secretary.

In the past week it has emerged that she was warned by an expert in 2015 that cuts to police numbers in Manchester were leading to a decrease in the intelligence needed to keep the city safe, and could put national security at risk.

In her latest campaign speech, May said she she would look at longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorist offences, “making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terror suspects to their own countries” and “doing more to restrict the freedom and the movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they present a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.”

She added: “If human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change those laws so we can do it.”

Labour’s Keir Starmer MP, a former human rights lawyer, responded, telling Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is no incompatibility between protecting human rights and taking effective action against terrorists.

“If we start throwing away our adherence to human rights in response to what has happened in the last three months, we are throwing away the values at the heart of the democracy, everything that we say we believe in.”

Last October, May used her speech at the Conservative Party conference to criticise “activist, left-wing human rights lawyers” who “harangue and harass” soldiers.

In a segment of the speech praising the armed forces, the new Prime Minister alluded to the government’s announcement yesterday that the UK soldiers will not be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights in future international conflicts.

“Not only will we remain committed to spending two per cent of our national income on defence,” she said.

“But we will never again – in any future conflict – let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave – the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces.”

However, the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto states that it will not scrap the Human Rights Act – a 2015 manifesto promise – while Brexit negotiations are ongoing.