Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire, Thompsons Senior Partner defended the European Convention on Human Rights, in a letter to the Editor of the Herald Newspaper which read:
Human rights exist to look after our interestsI read with interest the contribution by Stephen Naysmith on the Scottish Human Rights Commission ("Fair play will see us right", The Herald Society, December 16).
Inevitably, talk of human rights brought out the question of antipathy, if not disillusionment, with regard to what are perceived as its results - most notably the slopping-out cases. It is no doubt because of this that the Scottish Human Rights Commission feels that it has to portray human rights in a more palatable fashion and appeal to some Scottish sense of fairness.
We should not be so defensive about human rights. One of the most important rights we have is our right to life as enshrined in Article Two of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. We hear news daily of C Diff and MRSA (for example, recently courtesy of Richard Branson). These infections cause deaths in the NHS. The right to life applies here. There is no doubt that the families of those who have died will be able to have an inquiry into their deaths. The inquiry will require to be judicial and independent of the state and its purpose will be to obtain an explanation of how their loved ones died in hospital and what lessons are to be learned for all of us.
This right exists because two families whose loved ones died, a mother and a husband, from infections in our hospitals fought for and obtained a right to an inquiry founding on the right to life. In this case, the infections were Hepatitis C in blood for transfusions or blood products. The inquiry was granted despite the state, in particular the Lord Advocate, resisting the court action to force an inquiry (which included an insistence on massive findings of expenses against those relatives if they lost). Somewhat ironically for an officer of state who is there to look after our interests, she was found not to have fully respected the human rights of the individuals involved.
If the Lord Advocate fails to come to a decision on C Diff and MRSA, and matters are now becoming urgent, another human right will come into play and that is Article Six which is to do with a fair trial. Article Six covers delays and can be best encapsulated in the often quoted saying "justice delayed is justice denied".
The next time human rights are criticised, we should look to who in fact is doing so. If it is a politician or the state (and they were not happy about the slopping-out cases), we have to be suspicious. Human rights are there to protect us, especially where the state is acting or failing to act in our interests, and that is no more poignant and harrowing when our lives, or those of our loved ones, have been lost.
Frank Maguire, Senior partner and solicitor advocate, Thompsons Solicitors, 285 Bath Street, Glasgow.