Britain could quit convention

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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

A Cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister is to consider ways of preventing the European Court of Human Rights producing more "incredible" judgments, in the wake of the ruling on the SAS killing of three IRA terrorists.

John Major underlined his anger at the ruling at a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday and ordered a group of officials to prepare options for Britain's response. They are expected to include pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Downing Street sources said: "The Prime Minister has asked officials to report back on a range of options. Nothing has been ruled out at this stage."

Ministers are expected to prepare the ground before the Tory party conference next month, when the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, will face grass- roots demands for withdrawal from the convention.

The Government believes that Britain may have some power to change the remit of the court, as a founder-signatory of the 1948 Convention on Human Rights, which established it. One option which will be studied by ministers is a move to end the right of British citizens to appeal to the European Court.

The Strasbourg court is not part of the European Union structure, and cannot be influenced through the European Council of Ministers.

The Government is believed to regard pulling out of the convention as a last resort, because it wants to use the court to improve human rights in the independent states emerging from the former Soviet Union.