The big questions: Was John Terry wronged? Do we need the Lords? And would you jail bankers?

Answered this week by Clive Stafford Smith

Share
Related Topics

Would it serve any purpose to jail bankers found complicit in rate rigging?

If we are going to have criminal prosecutions at all, surely they should be related to the damage that the offender causes. By that yardstick, venal bankers who have caused misery for millions should face far greater punishment than those (primarily poor) people who commit offences that have far less impact. How can you be sent to prison for shoplifting but not for destroying the whole shop?

Do we need a Bill of Rights?

We have one. It is called the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The problem with the ECHR is that it is not deemed binding on Britain in the way that a true bill of rights should be. The notion that the ECHR is some infringement of anyone's sovereignty is a myth. I was speaking with someone from Ukip who was unable to identify a single way in which the ECHR had harmed him at all; yet the ECHR has helped many people whose rights have been under threat.

Should the elderly be made to sell their homes to fund care bills?

The proper question is whether we should guarantee everyone proper care. We obviously should. Once we agree on that, perhaps we can agree on a 100 per cent death tax – people can give money away while they are alive, but why it should be passed on at death is beyond me.

Should UK citizens be sent to the US for trial on charges that would not be crimes here?

I would not extradite people to the US for anything. The US justice system is a nightmare no matter what the offence.

Was it right to prosecute John Terry for alleged racial abuse?

I cannot for the life of me see why Terry was prosecuted. I dislike racism intensely, but I also dislike it when David Cameron says that allowing prisoners the vote disgusts him more than anything. I suspect that Cameron has not met a lot of the people he apparently despises, and that reflects the same prejudices of the racist. But, either way, we should not prosecute these people; unless someone is advocating imminent physical harm to someone, the only answer to bad ideas has to be better ideas, not censorship and prosecution.

Do we need the House of Lords?

This needs a full essay! In short, no, we should not have the "House of Lords" (an anachronism) but we certainly need a second elected house (called a Senate) that checks the populist nonsense that comes out of Parliament. The fear of democracy reflected by the political opponents of change is rather pathetic, given that Westminster is labelled the mother of parliaments.

The farming minister doesn't know the price of a pint of milk. Does it matter?

I know Jim Paice (he is my mother's MP) and it is unfair to pick on him. The main problem with the British political system is that it conflates the Executive with the legislature. The theory of the US system is much more sensible, where the President appoints people to cabinet who are experienced in an area. In the Home Office, we have had a sequence of political hacks with little experience in the relevant field, and have therefore done a succession of very silly politically expedient things.

Do High Court judges (like the one in the Apple iPad case) need to know what's "cool"?

The problem with judges is more where they come from, than what they know. Our judges (particularly the higher up one goes) are from very similar academic backgrounds and have, in my view, far too little experience of the real world that afflicts the majority of citizens. That said, British judges are generally far better than American judges.

Should Russian oligarchs be allowed to settle their feuds in the UK courts?

Of course. It is the greatest flattery that others believe the British courts deliver justice that they cannot get at home.

Clive Stafford Smith is director of the charity Reprieve. He recently published 'Injustice' (Random House) about the US legal system, telling the story of Kris Maharaj, a British citizen sentenced to death in Florida.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager

£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has a track record...

Recruitment Genius: Solar Field Sales Executive

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable