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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Killie prisoners in vote bid accused of seeking compensation

Killie prisoners in vote bid accused of seeking compensation

Nov 12 2010 by David Wynn, Kilmarnock Standard

AT least 135 inmates at Kilmarnock Prison have tried to join the electoral roll after it emerged they could be in line for compensation payouts.

The UK government has admitted it may be forced to hand prisoners the vote after it was advised that continuing to resist a European ruling could lead to payouts totalling tens of millions of pounds.

And the Standard can reveal that crafty cons at Bowhouse have been queuing up to try and register to vote in what’s being viewed as a bid to sue the government.

Local Labour politicians are calling on the powers that be to sort out the mess. Former Scottish Justice Secretary Cathy Jamieson, the Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP, said: “I would find it surprising if 135 inmates were suddenly so concerned about citizenship that they were rushing to register to vote.

“It is much more likely that their eyes are on possible compensation. Action has to be taken to resolve this as soon as possible.”

HMP Kilmarnock, which holds short-term, long-term and remand male adults, currently has 550 inmates.

Matt McLaughlin, Labour’s candidate for next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, asked for the figures in a Freedom of Information request to East Ayrshire Council.

And on November 4, he received the information that “to date 135 prisoners at HMP Kilmarnock have applied to go on the electoral register.”

Matt said: “I am sure that reasonable, hard working people across Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley will be concerned that their political representative might be determined by the inmates of Kilmarnock Prison, whoever they are and whatever crimes they have committed.

“Government must get a grip of this issue and sort it out.

The news that the government is set to allow prisoners to vote comes five years after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that banning convicted killer John Hirst from the polls had breached his right to free elections.

Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be “absolutely horrified” at the idea of changing the law, but reluctantly accepts there is no alternative.

The ruling Tory and Lib Dem coalition claim Labour should have done more when they were in power.

Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, says he is against the move but would have to abide by the electoral laws of the UK.

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