Theresa May has revived her plans to repeal human rights laws.
Speaking in the wake of the terror attacks in London and Manchester, the Conservative Prime Minister claimed human rights legislation could “get in the way” of the fight against terrorism.
While serving as Home Secretary, Mrs May had set out controversial proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act and leave the European Court of Human Rights, claiming human rights laws had done “nothing” for British people – despite their pivotal role in helping to secure early LGBT rights protections.
The deeply unpopular plans were shelved indefinitely in the wake of the EU referendum, but Theresa May hinted at their revival yesterday in the wake of the terror attacks.
She vowed: “We need to ensure our police and intelligence agencies have the powers they need… and if our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we’ll change the laws so we can do it.”
The comments signal an apparent break from the Conservative Party manifesto, which was published just weeks ago.
The manifesto commits to “remaining signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament”.
The Tory document had also explicitly ruled out “repealing or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway”, though it had left the door open for “considering our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes.”
May’s comments also appear to contradict her Education Secretary Justine Greening, who assured an LGBT hustings last week that there would be no backslide.
Speaking at the event hosted by Stonewall, PinkNews and Pride in London, Ms Greening said: “Quite simply, we are 100% committed to ensuring all existing rights, however the legal framework changes in relation to leaving the European Union.
“We will make sure we have no backward steps in this area through leaving the European Union.”
Labour’s Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and a renowned human rights lawyer, rubbished the Prime Minister’s claims.
Speaking to the BBC he said: “There is no incompatibility between protecting human rights and taking effective action against terrorists.
“I know because I did it for five years. We did not run into the Human Rights Act as a problem preventing successful prosecutions. We put a lot of people away for a very long time.”
He added: “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.”
Human rights laws were pivotal in securing LGBT equality.
Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which affords protection from discrimination, has been used in many legal cases to argue for protection for LGBT people, most notably securing an equal age of consent in the UK.
The ECHR was also vital in securing a settlement in the Republic of Ireland in 2014 on gender recognition. It remains influential across Europe on LGBT rights, with Italy also securing civil unions due to an ECHR ruling.