23_march_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,037

Monday 23 March 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

There are wide spread reports of the indiscriminate use of benefit sanctions and revelations that at the heart of the benefits system is the desire to punish benefit claimants. Despite the constant denials by the DWP the overwhelming evidence is that such denials are wilfully false and that what the DWP call ‘support’ is, in Mark Hoban’s words, “why we’re introducing this intensive and uncompromising regime” and the DWP is “stepping up the pressure on claimants”.

A sanction means that benefits are stopped, thus denying claimants the means of survival, a sentence no court in the land would ever dish out and yet benefit claimants are subject to such sanctions without trial or representation.

Article 3 of the human rights act stipulates – Prohibition of torture. No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Liberty offers the following explanations: “The prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is one of the most important provisions in the Human Rights Act.

It is an absolute right – in no circumstances will it ever be justifiable to torture someone.

Inhuman acts will amount to torture when used to deliberately cause serious and cruel suffering.

Treatment will be considered inhuman when it causes intense physical or mental suffering.

Treatment or punishment will be degrading if it humiliates and debases a person beyond that which is usual from punishment.

The most obvious obligation prevents State officials from torturing a person or subjecting them to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

It should not need pointing out, but clearly does, that torture is not ameliorated by the spurious definitions of the torturer, it is prosecuted via the experience of the victims. The DWP can claim whatever they like; that their ‘support’ through “stepping up the pressure on claimants” is all sweetness and light and is done for the benefit of claimants; what matters is the experience of the victims of the DWP’s “uncompromising regime” and that people are dying as a result.

This is not a matter for debate, Mr Cameron, which you are so anxious to avoid, it’s a matter of ‘Fact’, which is again something that you and your government studiously avoid.