G0419* – Rev. Philip FOSTER > Bishop of LIVERPOOL re PRISON VOTES

Rt Revd James Jones
Bishop‘s Lodge
Woolton Park
L25 6DT
11th February 2011
Dear Bishop,
I listened to your interview on Radio 4 on Thursday 10th Feb about
Parliament‘s response to the ECHR judgment on prisoner voting.
I think you rather missed the main issue, which isn‘t whether
prisoners should be allowed to vote or not, but who should decide.
The Charter of Human Rights was a faux de mieux invented by Mrs
Eleanor Roosevelt at the end of the last war to be imposed on the
shattered countries of continental Europe. It was imposed, and this is
vital to understand, because hardly any of those countries in Europe
had any tradition of democracy. Nearly all had been under various
forms of totalitarian rule, whether monarchist, presidential or
ideological. Further, nearly every country had, and still has, a legal
system based on Corpus Juris (sometimes known as Code Napoleon).
Corpus Juris originates from totalitarian rule and views the citizen
as subservient to the State: thus in a court of law an accused person
has to prove their innocence – their judge is also their prosecutor
and defence lawyers are never allowed to become prosecutors or judges.
There is no jury system as understood in the UK (the judge directs the
jury to a verdict – the judge is not impartial, he is part of the
prosecution). Thus some protection of individual liberty had to be
The situation in the UK was and is quite different. From king
Alfred‘s establishment of Common Law and the jury system, through
Magna Carta, Habeus Corpus and the Bill of Rights, the people of this
country, through their elected representatives in Parliament, decide
the Law and then it is the duty of the judiciary to administer it. If
a law seems bad to the people then the law can be changed by
Parliament. The system of British Law enshrines all the ideas of Human
Rights by default: a British citizen is free to do as he or she choses
unless it is contrary to the law of the land. This is not true under
Corpus Juris nor even the CHR. There, only what is expressly permitted
is allowed. Britain should never have signed up to the CHR as it is
not required in this country.
Parliament is sovereign with regard to what constitutes Law in the UK.
Indeed you and I have assented to this, as Anglicans in holy orders:
both by our assenting to the 39 Articles (in particular Article 37)
and by our oath of allegiance.
That a Parliament agreed to sign up to the CHR is irrelevant:
Parliament can equally decide to revoke that agreement (no Parliament
may bind its successors) – indeed I believe it should do so as soon as
Laws must not be imposed on this country from outside by people who
have never been elected or appointed by Parliament. That is the road
to totalitarianism.
A word about this famous ECHR. It is made up of superannuated
placemen and bureaucrats, many of whom have no experience of
jurisprudence and hardly any the slightest understanding of UK law.
There are, for example, judges from Russia in the ECHR. The countries
of Europe may bow to it if they wish, but the peoples of those
countries have never been consulted about it.
Regarding prisoners‘ votes. In this country we do not (yet) have
prisoners of conscience – unlike not a few European countries –
therefore the issue does not even arise. As David Davis MP quite
neatly put it, ”Those who break the law cannot be allowed to make the
When a prisoner is released they may of course use their vote.
Yours faithfully,
Rev Philip Foster MA 1 Barnfield, Common Lane, Hemingford Abbots,
Cambridgeshire PE28 9AX 01480 399098 Also SMP Ltd.

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