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Since its very inception, the principle of fairness has been the very foundation of the justice system in this country. Indeed, something cannot be fair if it is not just, and vice-versa. The United Kingdom has continued to champion justice ever since, with a strong emphasis on freedom and the rights of the individual being upheld by due process.  We have a long and proud legacy on this, from trial by jury and habeas corpus, through to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and our leadership in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights.

It would be a travesty if such an admirable record were undermined by a knee-jerk response to a complex and sensitive issue. Without more work, the current Rwanda scheme threatens to erode the very sense of fairness that underpins so much of the British state and its functions, and, crucially, any policy that offends the innate British instinct of justice and due process will alienate voters and lose us the argument.

It is obvious that we must address the Channel crossings and dismantle the business model of the unscrupulous criminal gangs that profit from desperation and misery. Indeed, the perils of making the Channel crossing mean there is a humanitarian imperative that this Government’s approach is the correct one. The Government is right to challenge its critics to come up with other solutions, instead of a deafening silence.

It is also important to acknowledge that, when dealing with such a dangerous and desperate problem, we have to be firm to be fair. This means retaining the use of third countries as a last resort, but going back and looking at what can be done before their use to ensure we discharge our duties to vulnerable people while putting an end to their exploitation by a network of smugglers and criminals.

The latest report from the think tank, Bright Blue, can be looked to for inspiration for the path we need to take.  The use of humanitarian visas should be restored with safe routes subject to a quota. These policies would command popular support, too, resonating with the all-important public spirit of fairness and compassion.

It is vital we tackle this vexed and very human issue, but that can only be done with an approach that the public can get behind and that accords with proper due process and can withstand proper scrutiny. We simply have to move beyond facile arguments about the ECHR and “leftie lawyers” and start looking at solutions that pass both moral and political tests.

The Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland MP is the former Justice Secretary. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image:]