4 March 2013

Just how many ECHR cases did Britain lose last year?

In brief supplement to yesterday's post about the Tories' rekindled enthusiasm for denouncing the European Court of Human Rights, I thought it might be convenient, if you are fending off Euroskeptic tabloid hacks in your own life, to arm you with a little data. 

Take last year. 2012.  During this period, how often do you think the dastardly, meddlesome, hyperactive European Court decided to make judgments in cases lodged against the United Kingdom? How many adverse decisions can Theresa May realistically hope will patter off Britannia's shield per annum, if her preferred outcome of withdrawing from the Court's jurisdiction were to be realised? From what volleys of European judicial folly will Lord Chancellor Grayling protect us?

The vanishingly small, ridiculously wee, answer is 10 judgments. 10 adverse judgments against the United Kingdom all year. In 2012, the Court issued 24 judgments in respect of 35 UK applications.  Of those 24 judgments, 13 found that Britain had not violated any protected human right, while the remaining judgment was decided without resort to the merits of the case.  By contrast, the Court rejected 2,047 applications against the UK as "inadmissible" in 2012.  

This isn't the place to go into the Court's jurisprudence on admissibility. Sufficeth to say, these cases failed, Britain didn't have to defend itself on the merits of the cases, and in most instances the UK Government wouldn't even have cause to have heard about them. The European Court only communicates the detail a small percentage of complaints to respondent governments, just 48 applications in respect of the UK in 2012. We can therefore chalk all inadmissible cases in the UK "victory" column. And 2012 wasn't unrepresentative.  While the number of unsuccessful, inadmissible cases was higher in 2012 than the previous two years, in 2010 and 2011, 23 and 30 applications respectively against the UK were decided by a judgment of the European Court.

So now we know. Last year, amid all the hubblebubble of political controversy in this country, the fiery rhetoric about a Strasbourg which was by turns micromanaging and incompetent, Britain lost a miniscule 0.5% of all cases decided by the Court, and 42% of all judgments handed down.

Just how many fewer cases would Cameron, May and Grayling think appropriately deferential to Britannic civilisation? How many fewer findings of violation wouldn't represent a grotesque affront to democracy and war on the sovereignty of the Westminster? Perhaps the double figures offend. Nine judgments? Five? One? None?

In fairness to May's argument, her beef isn't just with the year-on-year rate of judgments against the UK which the Court pronounces. She's griping primarily about the duty to comply with the tribunal's past judgments, particularly about the incompatibility of extraditing folk to countries where they are likely to be tortured with fundamental rights. It's a grumble of someone observing their obligations in international law unwillingly. In fairness too, if there's no movement from the UK government on prisoner voting rights, we might expect these figures to increase, perhaps substantially, over the next year or two. In general, however, these bare numbers speak to the practical inaccessibility of the Court to most applicants. Their petitions may be received and examined by Court staff, but only a tiny number are ever likely to catch the judicial eye, and be subject to a recognisably adversarial, judicial procedure. 

And yet, all that despite, the Conservative victim fantasists continue to bark, bay, blubber and groan, unabashed.


  1. You would do well to remember the British establishment touts for no permanent friends nor permanent enemies only permanent interests.

    When their ideology is reduced to its skeletal bigotry and their incompetence exposed and gnawing at their drawers, the artifice of spin allied to subterfuge is the only distraction open to them.

    And, why not, when its worked for nigh on thirty years on the home front and the EU is hardly a temple of wisdom.

  2. Crinkly and Ragged Arsed Philosophers,

    You old sentimentalist, you! I do wonder, in her own terms, what the devil May thinks she is doing. She must be in a position to know that the UK's entanglement with the European Court has at most a modest impact on the country one way or the other. Shameless venal politicking I can cope with. It is the idea she believes it that troubles me...

  3. I suspect on the one hand pure distraction; on the other hand Maggie May Thatcher Mark 11?

  4. Look over there, a mooching Bulgarian! Rage, citizen, rage.