§ Mr. Faulds
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he intends to take in the light of the report by the European Commission of Human Rights concerning judicial corporal punishment in the Isle of Man; and what part will be played by Her Majesty's Government in the forthcoming proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
The European Convention on Human Rights extends to the Isle of Man, as it does to a number of other territories for whose international relations the United Kingdom is responsible, by reason of a declartion under Article 63 made by the United Kingdom Government. The declaration in respect of the Isle of Man was made after consultation with the Isle of Man Government. The United Kingdom Government also accepted, after consultation with the Isle of Man Government, on behalf of the Isle of Man, and for the relevant period, the competence of the European Commission to receive petitions from individuals in accordance with Article 25.202W
The petition to the European Commission in the case in question contended that birching is prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention, which provides that no one is to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Corporal punishment as a judicial penalty has been abolished in the United Kingdom. As the report by the European Commission make clear, the retention of the penalty in the Isle of Man is thus contrary to the policy followed in this country and conflicts with the views of Her Majesty's Government. While, however, the Government are opposed to the penalty, and would not countenance its return in the United Kingdom, the criminal law and its administration in the Isle of Man are matters that by constitutional convention normally fall within the sole competence of the Legislature and Government of the Isle of Man. This explains why, although the United Kingdom Government hold the view that they do on judicial corporal punishment, the penalty nevertheless continues to be available for certain offences in the Isle of Man.
The Commission found, by a majority of 14 to 1, that the judicial corporal punishment inflicted on the petitioner was in breach of Article 3 of the Convention, as being degrading treatment or punishment.
The Commission has now referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Since the Government of the United Kingdom are internationally responsible for the observance of the provisions of the Convention, both in the United Kingdom itself and in the British territories to which it has been extended under Article 63, I am consulting the Isle of Man Government about the report and the proceedings before the Court. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the case while it remains sub judice.