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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sanctions warning on failure of prison vote

Sanctions warning on failure of prison vote

Council of Europe urges compliance

Published: 09/06/2010

THE UK was warned yesterday it could face sanctions if it fails to give prisoners the right to vote in time for elections taking place next May.

The government has so far failed to comply with a European Court of Human Rights judgment in 2005 which found that the voting ban affecting around 90,000 people in jail in the UK was incompatible with their human rights.

A ruling by the Council of Europe’s committee of ministers, published yesterday, voiced “profound regret” that the blanket ban was not lifted in time for last month’s general election.

It indicated that it was ready to draw up a resolution for action at its next meeting in September, if the UK had not taken steps by that point to comply with the judgment in time for the elections to devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on May 5, 2011.

The UK could be the first country to fall foul of new powers which came into effect earlier this month allowing non-compliance proceedings in the grand chamber of the Strasbourg court, with potential sanctions including suspension or expulsion from the Council of Europe – a separate body from the European Union.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The committee of ministers has given the coalition government a valuable opportunity to overturn this outdated and unlawful ban.

“Prison governors see voting as an ordinary part of rehabilitation. The Electoral Commission sees no practical difficulty in enabling prisoners to vote. The ban should be swept away as part of the government’s drive for wider constitutional reform and its commitment to a ‘rehabilitation revolution’.”

A government spokesman said: “Until the approach is settled, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

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