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

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Day In a Page

Read Next
IDF soldiers and vehicles in an image provided by campaign group Breaking the Silence  

'Any person you see – shoot to kill': The IDF doctrine which causes the death of innocent Palestinians

Ron Zaidel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong

Frankie Boyle
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before