In recent weeks "human rights" have come to the forefront of political debate as activist judges in Britain and in Europe have sought to force the elected government's hand on a number of emotive issues.

This week the Supreme Court declared that sex offenders should have the "human right" to appeal to have their names taken off the sex offenders register. Going back a week or so the European Court of Human Rights told the government that it must end its blanket ban on prisoner's voting.

Now on both of these issues there is a good case to be made for what the judges said, just as there are excellent arguments against their decisions.

What is worrying however is that both decisions have been touted by the judges as upholding the "human rights" of those their rulings effect (i.e. prisoners and sex offenders). These decisions have understandably not been received well by much of the general public who wonder why the judges don't seem that interested in the rights of those whose lives have been wrecked as a result of being the victims of those same criminals and sex offenders.

And so as a result of these and other rulings "human rights" has become something of a dirty phrase to large chunks of the population and has lead some politicians to openly consider ignoring, if not pulling out from, the European Court of Human Rights.

In response to such talk Jean-Paul Costa, President of the ECHR, said today that if Britain pulled out of the ECHR it would be like Greece when it was ruled by a dictatorship in the 1960s. Even more absurdly ex-Liberal Democrat leader, Menzies Campbell, last week said we had to stay in the ECHR in order to protect the rights of Latvian homosexuals.

Such ridiculous statements only partially reveal the flawed thinking that goes on in the mind of those who champion "human rights". The principal flaw being that they fail to distinguish between actual human rights and paper human rights.

One of the common accusations hurled by Labour types at Tory backbenchers of a certain strain is that they want to get rid of the Human Rights Act introduced by the ghastly government of Tony Blair. This is of course true, but they say it as though the Tory Party wants to do so in order to carry out human rights abuses at leisure.

The Human Rights Act 1998 was of course the piece of legislation that brought Britain into compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Convention came into being shortly after the Second World War and sought to put an end to the gross and genuine human rights abuses that had taken place in Europe in recent memory. It was in other words filling a genuine need in a continent where almost every major country had recent experience of murderous dictators from the French Revolutionary Terror, to Bonaparte, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco (to name only the most famous ones).

By contrast Britain has for centuries enjoyed liberty and a good human rights record, so often lacking in Europe. When Tony Blair introduced the Human Rights Act what problem was he solving?

Were John Major's death squads roaming the streets at night looking for victims? Was the infamous cone's hotline just a trap to catch dissidents who dared criticise public roadworks? Even the Great Satan and her right hand man Norman Tebbit never resorted to silencing their enemies like Arthur Scargill and Geoffrey Howe, even when it was in their interest to do so.

By contrast what has happened since the passage of the Human Rights Act? When was the last time someone's freedom of speech, or of association, or of religion, or freedom of the press protected by this act? Where was it, for example, when Dr Hans-Christian Raab was sacked by the government for having "controversial" views which had no bearing on his role as a policy maker on cannabis?

Yet how many times have we seen criminals, sometimes violent and unrepentant ones, given absurd "human rights" such as to have twigs in their cells to hold pagan rituals, never mind the right to vote. Meanwhile terrorists and foreign criminals cannot be deported because of their "right to a family life", despite the fact that in some cases they have quite happily killed or had intent to kill the family members of others.

So one has to ask the question who the Human Rights Act benefits. All the basic human rights, such as freedom of speech, of association, freedom of the press etc, existed in this country long before Tony Blair was even born. Yet some of these rights are in worse condition now than before the Act was passed. Meanwhile those who abuse their freedom to harm others find they can get ever more "rights" if only they ask a nice liberal judge.

Paper rights, such as those enshrined in the Human Rights Act, and those in which Jean-Paul Costa put their faith are of no use at all. The French Revolutionary Terror which led to the deaths of so many, came just a short time after the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen" was proclaimed.

Similarly the Soviet Constitution of 1936 guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and freedom to hold demonstrations, although this was of little used to those massacred by Stalin for trying to exercise those rights. The current constitution of North Korea has similar rights guaranteed.

Such useless and deceitful documents are not worth comparing with the real liberty which developed, not without struggle, in this country, so why bind ourselves to systems which were designed for a continent recovering from tyranny?

Unlike some in the Labour Party, Menzies Campbell appeared to realise that he would look foolish if he suggested pulling out of the European Convention of Human Rights would lead to a new dark age in Britain. Instead he chose to look foolish in a different way by saying that the fact that Britain is signed up to the ECHR encourages other less tolerant nations to do the same. It would for example prevent discriminatory laws being passed against Latvian homosexuals, he said.

Let us leave aside the dubious proposition that a democratically elected Parliament should be overruled by activist judges if only to protect Latvian homosexuals (of whom there are no doubt a vast number in need of saving). Does Sir Menzies really think that the Latvian government's policy on homosexuals hinges on whether Britain is part of the European Court of Human Rights?

For real human rights to exist noble sounding documents are irrelevant, but a culture of democracy, liberty, the rule of law and above all the belief that rights are innate rather than conceded to us by the state, must be present.

If Europe, or parts of it, still lack these things then perhaps the ECHR is for them, but we certainly do not need it here and the more the European Court asserts itself as though we do, the more likely it is to be resented and rejected by the British people.