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Friday, June 11, 2010

Prisoners' votes: The best way forward

Prisoners' votes: The best way forward

"The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the Government are considering afresh the best way forward on the issue of prisoner voting rights" (Hansard, 9 June 2010).

Nick Clegg has described Hirst v UK(No2) as being a legal minefield. However, Elkan Abrahamson (solicitor) who represents the Association of Prisoners, has stated that the case itself is not a legal minefield. The case itself is quite simple. Anyone attempting to deviate from the narrow confines of the judgment will wander into the legal minefield. Therefore, why is the government blundering off the straight and narrow? It is contended that that approach is not the best way forward. It is not metal detectors which are needed here but instead mental detectors. I laid the path, it may seem crazy paving to some lawyers and politicians and the media. I also laid the mines either side of the path. Now the government has got as far as it has, there is no going back because the path behind has been dug up and turned into a legal minefield. Moreover, it is strongly advised not to mark time on the same spot. It is in everybody's interests not to delay any further the best way forward.

In my view, Tom McNally made an error of judgement in accusing the European Court of Human Rights of moving the goal posts set in Hirst v UK(No2) in the 8 April 2010 judgment of Frodl v Austria. Had this come from Labour it would be dismissed as spin. The truth is that Lord Falconer misled the public, the media and Parliament as to what my case states. (I say my case because I asked the Council of Europe whether I owned the case bearing my name, and the reply confirmed I have ownership). When Labour appealed my case from the Chamber to the Grand Chamber, it was alleged that the Chamber had deviated from previous ECtHR case law. The Grand Chamber firmly rejected this line of argument. The Court may well treat with contempt the suggestion made by Tom.

Because the UK appeared to be having difficulty interpreting my case properly, the Court took the opportunity (agreed at the Interlaken Conference 17-19 February) in Frodl to provide further guidance on the judgment in my case. The Court stated that it was re-affirming the Hirst test. If the Court moved the goal posts then the Court did no more than move them back to their original position before Lord Falconer unlawfully moved them. Bear in mind that the UK is playing away, and that the rules and referee are not UK controlled. The Court stated that the Hirst test goes to Democracy, Rule of Law, and Human Rights. If the government's proposals for the best way forward fail to take into account these three non-negotiable elements then they will not pass the Hirst test come September. If the LibCons coalition is labouring under the belief that they can turn up at the Committee of Ministers meeting with some woolly thinking plan which lacks concrete substance, and get away with it, then they are sadly mistaken. In effect, the UK is on a 3 month probationary period.

Tom gives the members of the House of Lords too much credit when it comes to experience and expertise on my case. And blinds himself to the glaringly obvious. The foremost expert on the case is yours truly. Today, I have spoken to Tom's wife, Tom's PA, and finally Tom himself. Basically, he said that he promised he would get back to me.

Yesterday Richard Grayson writing on CIF stated that the Committee of Ministers had chucked a hand grenade between where the Conservatives and LibDems stand. The author's profile states that he is head of politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. Perhaps, he can teach me the subject of prison politics? The Court and Committee of Ministers are reactive, on the other hand I am pro-active. Given that I am the man behind creating this fine mess for the UK, wouldn't the best way forward include talking to me and seeking my advice? Just asking...

P.S. I have met the new deputy leader, Simon Hughes, previously and will be more than happy to take the white flag so that we can get this issue sorted once and for all.

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