This debate raises strong feelings that I am sure are genuine. However, it is with deep regret that I must say that at times it seems to have become not just difficult but almost unacceptable to suggest that prisoners have human rights, that their human rights should be defended and that the violation of their human rights should not be tolerated. In this debate, that
In many debates on justice, a clear, sharp line is imagined between victims and offenders, with the Executive keen to present itself as being on the side of the victim. Of course we should be on the side of the victim but we should also have the courage to say that we are on the side of everyone whose interests we represent. Does inhumane and degrading treatment give offenders the best chance of changing their behaviour for the better? Does the violation of prisoners' human rights act as a reforming influence and represent good policy? I would challenge any member to make that case.
Respected voices in legal circles—Helena Kennedy is one that I would cite—have questioned the distinction between victims and offenders. Many offenders in our prisons are themselves the victims of crime. It is wrong to use the legitimate demands for greater respect for victims and for a bigger place for them in the system as a means to attack the rights of prisoners or to undermine the culture of human rights.
Some members might question how it is possible to be on the side of victims and the side of prisoners such as Robert Napier. However, that is difficult to understand only if we see the issue as an equation, as the motion implies that we are doing, that puts the human rights of prisoners before the human rights of victims. However, nobody has done that. The human rights of all are important; that is why we call them human rights.
A prisoner who is compensated for the violation of their human rights is not gaining "from their crimes", as the motion says, nor are they gaining from their incarceration; they are being compensated for the violation of their human rights.