The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has been in the job for only a year: his controversial speech on Wednesday night marked his first anniversary in a role that he came to with a reputation as an outstanding human rights lawyer.
It is not the first time he has raised his head above the parapet. He has already tackled the difficult problem of assisted suicide, publishing – in a model of clarity – the reasons why he would not prosecute the parents of Daniel James after they helped the paralysed young rugby player fly to a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, and then setting out principles for consultation after a case brought by MS sufferer Debbie Purdy. He was as clear and robust in defending theHuman Rights Act in Wednesday's speech, a welcome challenge not only to the Conservative party, which would rip the act up, but also to those on Labour's side who run scared of tabloid headlines. He was proud, he declared, to live in a country that safeguarded rights that were "universal, inalienable and perpetual". The problems some perceived with the act were the result of misunderstanding or misapplication, he argued, and he was not sure what, in the Tony Blair formula, needed "rebalancing", or "made more British", as the Tories prefer to put it. He dismissed calls for reform that were based on such a fundamentally flawed analysis, and warned that they would bring shame to the country. To some it was politicking by a public servant. It was not. It was an expert opinion, long overdue.
Editorial. (Friday 23rd October, 2009). In praise of … Keir Starmer. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/oct/23/kier-starmer-human-rights-act