Bingham calls for UK Bill of Rights

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The Independent Online
LORD JUSTICE Bingham, who takes over as Master of the Rolls this week, told lawyers yesterday that the failure to introduce a Bill of Rights had damaged public confidence in the courts.

Speaking during a debate at the Bar Council's annual conference in London, Lord Justice Bingham called for the European Convention on Human Rights to be incorporated into British legislation.

The need for a Bill of Rights was 'greater than ever' given the ethnic diversity of Britain today, he said. 'There can be nothing more fundamental at the heart of any legal system . . . than protection of human rights.'

Questions turning on civil liberties that are currently decided in Strasbourg under the European Convention should instead be resolved here, he said. Under the present system, 'every disgruntled citizen' believed that they had to take their case to Europe. 'I myself think that undermines the confidence of the public in the British courts as a place to go where they can get their rights protected,' he said.

Dr Conor Gearty, a senior lecturer in law at King's College, London, warned that judges could face dangers with a Bill of Rights. The judiciary would have to decide civil liberties issues that should be left to MPs, he said.

Legal authorities should be given the option of opting for civil remedies instead of criminal prosecutions in some kinds of fraud cases, including insider dealing, Lord Justice Hoffman said at the conference.

The questions in such cases were sometimes too blurred and detailed for jurors to resolve, he suggested. 'To bring a fraud case before a jury requires not only that it should be made as simple as possible but that you should present the jury with a clear-cut moral issue.'

Barbara Mills, the Director of Public Prosecutions and former head of the Serious Fraud Office, called for the introduction of a simple offence of fraud and a two- month time limit on trials.