The Public Know Best

Or do they? Should we decide things by the majority view, or are there times when the majority view is something we should ignore?

Where am I coming from you ask? Well a few things in the last few days have made me consider the issue.

Firstly tonight is BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The main award is voted for by the public. Last year the award went to Ryan Giggs, a great footballer of that there can be no doubt. However, he achieved very little personally in 2009. He was not always picked to play for Manchester United, he achieved little on the international stage. So was he the best Sports Personality of 2009?

If he had won a Lifetime’s Achievement Award, then everyone would have said it was richly deserved. But for what he did in 2009, did he deserve it more than say Mark Cavendish who won a record 6 stages of the Tour De France as well as winning numerous other races.

The 2009 Contenders were

Without a drive just weeks before the start of the Formula One season, Button bounced back with Brawn to win the drivers’ championship and could now follow previous British world champions Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill in scooping the award.

The Manx sprinter won six stages of the Tour de France, becoming the first Briton to win on the Champs Elysees, and also won the Milan-San Remo Classic.

Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2007, Daley could graduate to the main award after winning the 10-metre platform event in the World Championships aged just 15 years and 61 days.

The Yorkshire heptathlete bounced back from missing last year’s Olympics through injury to win the World Championship in Berlin with a personal best of 6,731 points.

The ex-Wales winger won his 11th Premier League title with Manchester United, reached 800 appearances and 150 goals for the club – as well as 100 in the Premier League – and was named PFA Player of the Year.

David beat “Goliath” – Russian giant Nikolai Valuev – by a majority points decision to justify his own hype and achieve his aim of becoming world heavyweight champion, despite conceding nearly a foot in height and seven stones in weight.

Idowu could emulate 1995 award winner Jonathan Edwards after winning world triple jump gold with a personal best of 17 metres 73 centimetres to make up for last year’s Olympic near miss.

The Scot won six ATP Tour titles, including two Masters events, and his world ranking peaked at a career-high number two in August. He also enjoyed career-best runs to the Wimbledon semi-finals and the French Open quarters.

Strauss captained England to Ashes victory and was named player of the series, topping the run charts with 474 at an average of 52 and adding the series’ highest innings with 161 at Lord’s.

The Liverpudlian became a world champion on the floor at London’s O2 Arena with a stunning routine – just a day after her best chance of gold, on the asymmetric bars, slipped away when she fell during her signature move.

Taken from the Daily Telegraph

So why did Ryan Giggs win? Well the fact it was voted for by the public, he plays for the most popular team in the most popular sport in the UK probably played a part.

How could the award reflect the achievements of contenders in 2009? Well, in my view we would get a far more reflective and accurate award if it was voted for by a panel of sports journalists rather than being a popularity contest.

I should make it clear that I have nothing against Ryan Giggs who is a great footballer, one of the best ever produced in the British Isles. However, it would have been more appropriate to have given him the lifetime’s achievement award.

The 2010 SPOTY was no better with the runner-up being Phil Taylor. That is Phil Taylor, the man who plays a pub game  of darts. It’s quite simply not a sport. At this rate I expect the 2011 SPOTY to  be a shove ha’penny or a dominoes player. The runner-up to be someone who is good at Grand Theft Auto on the X Box.

This is what happens when you let the public chose.


Those who know me will not be surprised to find that I spend time debating on-line on various forums, including (better give it a plug!). On several of these forums, the Human Rights Act regularly comes up with a majority of people seemingly saying: –

1. The Human Rights Act should be repealed

2. We need to leave the EU so we can repeal the Human Rights Act

People would vote to repeal the HRA if given the choice. Yet if you ask them which clauses in the HRA they want to repeal, they can’t tell you. They have never read the Act. However because the tabloids blame the HRA for all the ills besetting this country, people unthinkingly call for its repeal.

The HRA incorporates into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR  has no connection with the EU. There is nothing to stop the UK repealing the HRA whilst in the EU. The ECHR was drafted in the main by British Lawyers long before the EU or its predecessotr came into being. So those calling for us to leave the EU to enable us to repeal the HRA are simply mistaken. Should we leave the EU for other reasons is a different debate.

The rights under the convention are:

Article 2 Right to life

1Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.

2Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a)in defence of any person from unlawful violence;

(b)in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;

(c)in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.

Article 3 Prohibition of torture

No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 4 Prohibition of slavery and forced labour

1No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

2No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

3For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:

(a)any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;

(b)any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;

(c)any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

(d)any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

Article 5 .Right to liberty and security

1Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(a)the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

(b)the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(c)the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

(d)the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority;

(e)the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants;

(f)the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.

2Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.

3Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.

4Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.

5Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

Article 6 .Right to a fair trial

1In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

2Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(a)to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

(b)to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(c)to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(d)to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(e)to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

Article 7 No punishment without law

1No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.

2This Article shall not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations.

Article 8 Right to respect for private and family life

1Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 9 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 10 Freedom of expression

1Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Article 11 .Freedom of assembly and association

1Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

Article 12 .Right to marry

Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

Article 14 .Prohibition of discrimination

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Now, which of these rights do you think we should give up? Ok, I know the masochists may want to repeal the prohibition on torture and may be supported by the sadists in this respect. However, the rights under the ECHR are basic fundamental rights which no sensible thinking person would want to lose.

However, read any newspaper or the comments on its website and you will see calls for the repeal of this Act. There may be some issues about the way the courts have interpreted the Act, but do we want to throw out the baby with the bath water? Well yes, it seems the majority of the public would like to do just this. Why? because I suspect they have not thought about the consequences of what they are saying.

This is another situation where following the majority view would be in my view a retrograde step and harmful to our freedoms.


Another situation where the view of the seeming majority is dangerous in my view is in relation to the law on self-defence. At present, the law allows you to use such force as you reasonably think is necessary to defend yourself if being attacked. Many people think that in your home or even elsewhere you should be entitled to use whatever force you want. This again is something that has not been thought through.

for a start it introduces the law of the lynch mob. Would those calling for this change in the law be happy if they got beaten severely because someone thought they were being attacked. Or how about if X has a grievance with Y, he  either tricks Y to come to X’s house or kidnaps Y and takes him to X’s house and tortures him & claims Y had attacked X in X’s home.

Others suggest that instead of allowing unlimited force, the law should prescribe exactly what is and is not allowed in terms of self-defence so as to provide certainty. This may sound a sensible approach but it is again fraught with danger. The one thing with any list is that it will not be able to  cover every situation. So, if you do something that is not on the list, even though it was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, then you would find yourself convicted of an assault.

The way the law is drafted provides more flexibility and protection to someone acting in “self-defence” than any form of prescriptive list. Sadly, the message is not put over effectively by the powers that be. The tabloid newspapers are not interested in the truth, preferring instead to spread scaremongering half-truths. This is something that needs to be addressed by the powers that be. Whether that comes from; The Government; The Judiciary; The Police; The CPS or some other body or a combination of all these is a matter for debate.


So if you are still with me at the end of this rant, then where should we draw the line in relation to the views of the majority? That is a debate for another day.

Now are you impressed that I’ve gone from the SPOTY awards to Human Rights in one post?


PS If you are wondering why this is so long a post, it is because I have been waiting for Michelle to call me back. Sadly, I think the effect of over indulgence hassent her to the land of nod. Over indulgence in what? I’d rather not comment on that thanks – you can imagine what you want.

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