2 Judgments of the European Court
of Human Rights |
The factual context
2.1 During this Parliament, there has been controversy
over whether some newspapers have been misleading in their presentation
of statistics about judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
On 12 January 2012, for example, the Daily Mail's front page story
carried the headline: Europe's war on British justice: UK loses
3 out of 4 human rights cases, damning report reveals.
The Telegraph ran a similar story.
On 24 August 2014, the Sun carried a similar piece under the headline
Euro judges go against UK in 3 out of 5 cases.
2.2 In fact, the proportion of cases which the UK
loses in the European Court of Human Rights is not 75% or 60%,
as these press stories claimed, but closer to 1%. The newspaper
stories did not take into account the large number of applications
against the UK which are rejected by the Court as inadmissible.
As the Government's report, Responding to human rights judgments,
makes clear, between
1959 and the end of 2013 the proportion of applications against
the UK which resulted in a finding of a violation of the Convention
was 1.34%. The proportion of cases resulting in a finding of a
violation has also been steadily reducing in recent years: it
was approximately 1.3% in 2010, 1% in 2011 and 0.6% in both 2012
2.3 On 7 October 2013 the Daily Mail ran a front
page story under the headline Human right to make a killing:
damning dossier reveals taxpayers' bill for European court payouts
to murderers, terrorists and traitors.
The article claimed that the European Court "handed the criminals
taxpayer-funded payouts of £4.4 millionan average
of £22,000 a head." The article provoked an unprecedented
statement in response from the European Court of Human Rights,
through its Registrar, expressing concern about "the frequent
misrepresentation of its activities in the British media."
The Court complained that the information was being presented
in a way which was "seriously misleading". It pointed
out that the figure of £4.4 million included legal costs
as well as compensation, and that the figure for compensation
was £1.7 million. It also pointed out that "it is simply
not true to suggest that all the applicants in respect of whom
the Court has found violations since 1998 were criminals."
2.4 The Daily Mail subsequently published a correction
on 10 November 2013, in which it said "An article on 8 October
said that the UK has paid £4.4 million in compensation to
criminals under rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.
In fact, the money went to a range of claimants and only £1.7
million was compensation; legal costs accounted for the rest."
2.5 In this Report we seek to present dispassionately
the factual context in which political debates about the European
Court of Human Rights should take place, by analysing closely
the latest available statistics.
The number of Strasbourg judgments
finding a violation by the UK
2.6 The latest available statistics from the European
Court of Human Rights show that the number of judgments in cases
against the UK in which the Court found a violation of the Convention
has continued its significant downward trend of recent years.
In 2013 there were only 8 such judgments by the European Court.
According to the Court's most recent Annual Report,
in 2014 there were only 4 new judgments finding a violation by
the UK. The statistics
also show that in 2014 the UK was, of all the 47 member states
of the Council of Europe, the State with the highest number of
judgments (10) finding no violation of the Convention.
2.7 These figures demonstrate that over the course
of this Parliament there has continued to be a steady decline
in the number of adverse judgments of the European Court of Human
Rights against the UK: in 2008, for example, there were 28 such
judgments and in 2002 there were 30.
2.8 We draw Parliament's attention to the significant
downward trend in the number of judgments of the European Court
of Human Rights which have found the UK to be in breach of the
ECHR. We also draw to Parliament's attention the wide discrepancy
between some of the media coverage of the statistics about judgments
of the European Court of Human Rights and the facts as contained
in the statistics themselves.
The UK's record on implementing
judgments of the European Court
2.9 We have also considered the latest available
statistics from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
which show that the number of UK cases in which the judgment has
not yet been implemented has also continued its significant downward
2.10 Analysis of these statistics shows that, subject
to three main qualifications which are considered below, the UK
generally has a very good record on the implementation of judgments
of the European Court of Human Rights. The number of UK cases
which have not been implemented to the satisfaction of the Committee
of Ministers, and which are therefore still under supervision,
has continued to fall year on year over the course of this Parliament.
At the end of 2011 there were 40 cases against the UK still under
supervision; 39 at the end of 2012; and 27 at the end of 2013.
2.11 Although the official statistics for 2014 will
not be published by the Committee of Ministers until March this
year, the Government's report, Responding to human rights judgments,
says that towards the end of 2014 the number of cases under supervision
was 12 (if the so-called "McKerr Group" of cases, which
comprises 6 cases from Northern Ireland raising similar issues
concerning the investigation of the use of lethal force, are treated
as one). During 2014, the Committee of Ministers adopted final
resolutions, closing its supervision of the case, in 16 UK cases.
2.12 We commend the Government for its generally
very good record on implementing Court judgments and draw this
to Parliament's attention. The Government is to be congratulated
on the swift implementation of a number of recent judgments, and
on its recent successful efforts to bring to a conclusion a number
of older cases which had been under supervision by the Committee
of Ministers for a long time.
2.13 However, there is a relatively small number
of cases in relation to which there have been unacceptable delays
in implementation, which we consider in chapter 3.
Responding to human rights judgments: Report to the Joint Committee
on Human Rights on the Government response to human rights judgments
2013-14, Cm 8962 (December 2014), p. 15. Back
Annual Report 2014 of the European Court of Human Rights, Council
of Europe http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Stats_violation_2014_ENG.pdf
(published 30 January 2015). Back