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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Convicted prisoners to get vote after European ruling

Convicted prisoners to get vote after European ruling

Thousands of convicted UK prisoners are to get the right to vote after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the present ban was unlawful.

Sources told the BBC the government had exhausted all legal avenues fighting the 2005 decision and an announcement is expected later this week.

Lawyers have said a failure to comply could cost hundreds of millions of pounds in legal costs and compensation.

Details of which category of prisoners will be eligible is yet to be decided.

Prime Minister David Cameron was said to have reluctantly accepted that there was no way of maintaining the 140-year-old ban on sentenced prisoners voting in general elections, according to BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti.

However, he will resist allowing to vote those prisoners who have committed the most serious offences, our correspondent adds.

'Archaic punishment'

Prisoners on remand awaiting trial, fine defaulters and people jailed for contempt of court are already permitted to vote but more than 70,000 convicted prisoners currently in UK jails are prevented.

Prisoners were originally denied the right to vote while serving a sentence under the 1870 Forfeiture Act and the ban was retained in the Representation of the People Act of 1983.

Following a legal challenge brought by John Hirst, who was convicted of manslaughter, a final European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in 2005 said the blanket ban was discriminatory and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The former Labour administration then undertook a series of consultations on the voting rights of prisoners but did not legislate on the issue.

In June the Council of Europe, an inter-governmental organisation that oversees and enforces rulings made by the ECHR, urged the coalition to act.

Under the ECHR ruling, each country can decide which offences should carry restrictions to voting rights.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the ban could be retained for murderers and others serving life sentences and judges may be given responsibility for deciding which criminals should be allowed to vote when sentencing.

The newspaper also reports that one plan is to allow inmates a vote based on their last postal address to stop an entire prison coming under a single constituency.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said a "historic decision to enfranchise serving prisoners" would bring to an end the "archaic punishment of civic death".

She said: "In a modern prison system you would expect prisoners to have rights and responsibilities and politicians to take an active interest in their constituency prisons. People are sent to prison to lose their liberty not their identity."


Anonymous said...

I am afraid the level of journalism in uk has sunk to an all time low. Not one 'good article' reporting all the facts so the majority of the public are still in the dark. The nasty comments just show their ignorance. I am sure some are being moderated too!
Keep up the good work!

louise h

Anonymous said...


There is a lot of injustice in the world and, although I agree with you, votes for prisoners is not something I personally have lost a lot of sleep over but I am really really impressed with your persistence and now with your success. Very well done.

Tom F

Sorry it is a bit belated, been meaning to post for a few days now!