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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Liverpool lawyer behind campaign to give prisoners votes says latest plans ‘not enough’

Liverpool lawyer behind campaign to give prisoners votes says latest plans ‘not enough’

Dec 18 2010 by Ben Schofield, Liverpool Echo

A LIVERPOOL lawyer today said a move to give prisoners serving less than four years inside the right to vote does not go far enough.

Elkan Ambrahamson has campaigned for six years to get the law changed in favour of inmates.

But he said legislation planned by the Government for next year may not comply with European Union laws and could lead to more law suits.

Under plans outlined yesterday criminals serving sentences of four years or more will not be allowed to vote and sentencing judges will be given the power to remove voting rights for those serving shorter sentences.

The UK has to change its voting laws after the European Court of Human Rights said its Representation of the People Act, which bars prisoners from voting, was unlawful.

A case was taken to the Strasbourg court in 2004 by Mr Abrahamson on behalf of manslaughter convict John Hirst.

European judges said the UK was wrong to deny Mr Hirst the right to vote and demanded the law change.

Frustrated by the lack of progress on passing new legislation, Mr Abrahamson, who works for Church Street-based Jackson & Canter, started encouraging prisoners to sue the Government for not allowing them to vote in the May general election.

Responding to the plans Mr Abrahamson said today: “It’s a step in the right direction, but this needs to be looked at a bit. I would have liked to have seen a system which allows a decision to be made on the facts of a particular case, for judges to make a decision when they sentence people.

“This probably isn’t enough to comply with the European cases.

“It could lead to more litigation.”

David Cameron’s spokesman said: “We are responding to court judgements.

“We have to comply with those judgements and we don’t want to get into a situation where we are compensating prisoners because we have not complied.

“It is not something the Prime Minister would do if he were given a free choice on this.”

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