The Government should consider withdrawing Britain from the European Court of Human Rights unless it can significantly reform within two years, an influential think tank has said.
The centre-right Policy Exchange called for the UK to open negotiations over the efficiency of the Strasbourg court and the “judicial competence” of its judges.
Failure to achieve substantial progress within two years should lead Britain to pull out and allow the Supreme Court to adjudicate on human rights cases, it said.
The call, in a report published on Monday, comes as the Government is wrestling with a ruling from the Strasbourg court that prisoners must be granted the vote. The highly controversial issue will come to a head in the House of Commons on Thursday when MPs will debate and vote on the issue.
The Policy Exchange’s recommendations are endorsed by former law lord Lord Hoffmann, who wrote in the foreword to the report that seeking to repatriate human rights law was “worth a try”.
“International institutions which are set up by everyone become in practice answerable to no one, and courts have an age-old tendency to try to enlarge their jurisdictions,” he said.
“And so the Strasbourg court had taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems of the member states of the Council of Europe (or at any rate those which pay attention to its decisions) culminating, for the moment, in its decision that the UK is not entitled to have a law that convicted prisoners lose, among other freedoms, the right to vote.”
The Policy Exchange report, written by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, recommended that the UK should open negotiations with the Council of Europe to make “substantial reforms to the way that the court is run and its caseload managed”.
He said: “Such reforms would include new procedures to assure the judicial competence of new judges and the greater efficiency of the court. The negotiations would seek to find agreed ways to ensure that the judges at Strasbourg give greater discretion to the domestic judges of each member state.
“If such negotiations are unsuccessful, the UK should consider withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and establishing the Supreme Court in London as the final appellate court for human rights law.”