The Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
The Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Reuters

The prime minister, David Cameron, has urged the Court of Human Rights to make urgent reforms as it continues to "undermine its own reputation [by taking action] where it does not have to".

Cameron told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg: "The court should be free to deal with the most serious violations of human rights. It should not be swamped with an endless backlog of cases."

"The court should not undermine its own reputation by going over national decisions where it does not need to."

The prime minister, who flew straight to Germany from his weekly session of PMQs in Westminster, said he was keen to see the court used "for its original purpose".

"The court should ensure that the right to individual petition counts. It should not act as a small claims court," he said.

"We are looking to improve the efficiency of the court. New rules could enable it to focus more efficiently and transparently on the most important cases."

Tory backbenchers have been pressing Cameron to act over perceived interference by the ECHR on issues such as deportation and prisoners' voting rights.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg backed the bid for reform, with the Liberal Democrat leader telling a Cabinet session that he wanted to see the court "working properly", No 10 said.

Sir Nicolas Bratza, the British president of the court, has already launched a thinly veiled attack on senior British politicians for pandering to tabloid newspapers over the court.

"It is disappointing to hear senior British politicians lending their voices to criticisms more frequently heard in the popular press, often based on a misunderstanding of the court's role and history, and of the legal issues at stake," he wrote in the Independent.