The judgment in the Chindamo case might not rely on the Human Rights Act, but it provides a good opportunity for that Act to be condemned once again.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has stated that separate EU law lies behind the ruling, and that the Human Rights Act was a mere "subsidiary" factor in this case, making little "difference at all" to the decision. It may therefore be interpreted as a piece not merely of opportunism, but of misinformed opportunism, for David Cameron to have called for the Act to be abolished in Britain.
But David Cameron is right, and the level of the Act's involvement in the Chindamo case is not the issue. If it is indeed other EU law that is the problem then that too should be looked at. But it is the visibility of the HRA that will be its downfall. It is perceived to be - and is - the ultimate defence for criminals and terrorists who already have so many extra defences provided for them by Europe. One of the aspirations of the Act - indeed, its hubristic pitfall - is its all-encompassing nature. It is hard to imagine any criminal or terrorist who could not legitimately invoke articles 2 and 8 of the Act (the "right to life" and "right to a private and family life") on some occasion. Many have done so. In the case of the sex attacker Anthony Rice it was invoked for him by a parole board, freeing him to kill a woman because the authorities thought that detention violated his rights.
The idea now widely exists that if you kill, or seek to kill, people in Britain, then the Human Rights Act will ultimately protect you, even keeping in Britain those who have no right to be here. Not deporting to a country that might torture, like Saudi or Egypt, say, can be persuasively argued. But what exactly is the pressing case for stopping someone being deported to Italy?
In the Chindamo case, the message has once again been given out that the rights of a foreign-born criminal to "have a life" completely over-rides the more basic rights of a British family. It is beyond being a matter for lawyers, but is certainly a matter for MPs, when the public observes rights being so disproportionately granted to an individual like Chindamo, who himself took a family's rights in the most despicable and casual manner.
A YouGov poll last month showed that 61% of the British public want to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. European-originating laws have persistently run contrary to the British public's most instinctive sense of justice. There is as much opprobrium in those cases where the HRA is invoked and fails (the recent El-Faisal deportment for instance) as where it is invoked and works. Laws which are deemed risible when they fail as well as where they succeed cannot be good laws.