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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Compensation fear forces Government to give prisoners the vote

Compensation fear forces Government to give prisoners the vote

Richard Ford Home Correspondent
Last updated November 2 2010 12:01AM

Tens of thousands of prisoners are to be given the vote after the Government admitted that it could no longer ignore a European Court ruling made six years ago.

The climbdown will be made at a Court of Appeal hearing later this week. In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Britain’s 140-year ban on prisoners voting was unlawful. The Government’s move comes after advice from lawyers that continuing to ignore the ruling could lead to tens of millions of pounds in compensation claims from up to 70,000 convicted criminals.

Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, is attempting to minimise the political furore that will erupt over the decision, by arguing that criminals serving more than four years will still be banned. Whitehall sources said ministers will try to ensure that the vote is not given to every offender in prison.

The Government is desperate to avoid the row that will erupt if criminals, such as the mass murderer Rose West, the Soham killer Ian Huntley and the paedophile Roy Whiting, who killed Sarah Payne, are allowed to vote.

Last night penal reform sources suggested that the Government’s room for manoeuvre was limited.

After the ruling was made in 2004, the Labour Government appealed but lost, and since then there have been two separate Ministry of Justice consultations. Prison reform groups accused Labour of “dragging its feet” by holding the consultations.

Juliet Lyon, the Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the move by the Government would be an “historic decision”. “People are sent to prison to lose their liberty, not their identity. Giving prisoners the right to vote is both a recognition of their rights and responsibilities.” She said she hoped it would lead to constituency MPs taking a greater interest in prison issues.

The Electoral Commission has already suggested that prisoners should be given a postal vote based on their home constituencies rather than allowing a prisoner to vote in the constituency in which a jail is situated.

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney-General, has previously said that giving inmates the right to vote would be “ludicrous” and Mr Cameron was reported as being “exasperated” and “furious” at having to agree the move.

1 comment:

Gawain Towler said...

Congratulations John. You know I disagree with you,, but I applaud your efforts.