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Saturday, January 22, 2011

David Cameron seeks deal on votes for prisoners to avoid his first defeat

This man, Joe Murphy, calls himself Political Editor of the London Evening Standard. I would argue that he is setting a very poor standard to follow with this: "David Cameron seeks deal on votes for prisoners to avoid his first defeat".

He writes: "Downing Street was today hoping to secure a compromise over votes for prisoners as David Cameron attempted to avoid his first Commons defeat since taking power.

"With the Government facing a possible £100 million bill for compensation payouts to inmates, ministers are trapped between being defeated in the courts or beaten in the Commons.

"Government whips hope to persuade rebels to agree a compromise motion stating that the number of prisoners getting the vote should be kept to a "minimum" rather than zero. A senior source said: "If the House says 'keep it to a minimum', that would be helpful because it would become part of our legal case and would reduce the number of payouts to prisoners." Former home secretary Jack Straw and his former shadow, Tory MP David Davis, have united to put the Government under pressure to keep the current law that states that nobody can vote while serving time for crimes. They won time for a Commons debate in February when Mr Cameron's majority could be in severe jeopardy. However, the Government would ignore a motion for a blanket ban because lawyers say that is now illegal under human rights laws.

"There are 2,500 compensation cases waiting for judgment. Mr Cameron said the idea of paying tens of millions to convicted criminals "sickened" him but officials say those serving short sentences are certain to win after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

"Ministers plan to give any prisoner serving less than four years a vote in Westminster and European elections. Labour says it should be one year - a limit that was ruled illegal in Austria under the same laws.

"Mr Straw said: "This is a really tricky issue. I had to handle it for three years in the knowledge that there was no majority in the House of Commons for change."

"Mr Davis said it was a "crisis" caused by the ECHR interfering. "It's for Parliament to stand up and say 'no, this is our decision, not yours'," he said".

Comment: As Political Editor of the London Evening Standard, I would have expected Joe Murphy to be aware of the legal ruling in Hirst v UK (No2) which also maps out the political landscape. The first mistake that Joe Murphy makes is to give the impression that David Cameron is in the position to seek any deal on votes for prisoners.

According to Foulkes' Administrative Law: "Administrative law is the law relating to public administration. It is concerned with the legal forms and constitutional status of public authorities; with their powers and duties and with the procedures followed in exercising them; with their legal relationships with one another, with the public and employees...

"The basic and traditional functions of the state are those of securing the community against external aggression and internal strife and of keeping itself going out of taxation...

"In addition, the need to attempt to secure human rights...".

Whilst the Eurosceptics might deem that European influence in our politics constitutes an attack upon our sovereignity, this it has to be said is a extremist view and without any reasonable foundation. And whilst the Prisoners Votes Case is causing some MPs what mighe be called strife, again this is extreme and the strife referred to is violent protest. We would fare better if measures prevented tax avoiders like Lord Ashcroft to pay the full price rather than to get away with his ill-gotten gains. This just leaves us with "...the need to attempt to secure human rights...", which is what this piece is really all about. In short, what I am saying is that there is an obligation upon David Cameron to address this issue rather than concern himself with trying to conserve his personal thirst for staying in power. In effect, what he is trying to get away with is sacrifice convicted prisoners human rights for private purpose. And that is an abuse of public power.

Foulkes' states: "There is a need for public power and it's efficient exercise: there is a need for protection against abuse of power". And, it is because of this that I studied administrative law - to protect prisoners from abuse of power. There can be no deal struck with David Cameron which does not ensure that all convicted prisoners get their human right to vote. He has the option of meeting my demand or resigning his office. It follows that there is no room with this for David Cameron to secure a compromise.

My understanding is that because convicted prisoners were denied their vote in both the 2009 European and 2010 general election, the bill for the taxpayers already stands at £135m, and if those eligible to vote are not able to do so at the May 2011 Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland elections and AV for England, then the bill could be as musch as £270m. In my view, I don't believe that being defeated in the Commons is anywhere near as big as the trouble in store for the UK at the Debate & Vote : Wednesday 26 January 2011 At the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) On the subject of Implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Therefore, the government is concentrating on a minor mutiny in the ranks behind the lines when it should instead be focused upon the far bigger threat to the UK's position from Strasbourg. The "senior source" is mistaken in believing that Strasbourg will accept minimum compliance when it has already stated that only full compliance of the ruling in Hirst v UK (No2) is acceptable, therefore the government has no legal case at all, and it follows that therte will be no reduction in relation to compensation payouts for convicted prisoners.

It is laughable that Jack Straw and David Davis think their sideshow will have a bigger impact than the main attraction in Strasbourg on Wednesday 26 January 2011 At the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In addition, both Jack Straw and David Davis are to become targets of litigation in the courts brought by the Association of Prisoners for comments made to the media outside of parliamentary privilege, and for Jack Straw's unlawful conduct whilst Secretary of State for Justice. Also, Jack Straw will be accused of contempt of Parliament for misleading Parliament in relation to lying over his statement that there has been no case where the government has failed to legislate following an incompatibility ruling under the HRA. Smith v Scott is one such example where no amended legislation took place.

David Cameron's position may well be under threat from within the Tory party, but that is of no concern to Europe because it is the UK State and not a political party which is bound by international law. It is not just the blanket ban on votes which is illegal, but any disenfranchisement which cannot be justified. Any arbitrary less than 4 years or even less than 1 year bans are illegal.

The 2,500 cases in the pipeline at the ECtHR are not, per se, compensation cases, but cases alleging a breach of human right in denial of the franchise, although claims for damages for loss of the vote will be attached to the cases. It is immaterial to the issue whether David Cameron states it makes him physically ill at the thought of giving prisoners the vote, because he is simply playing to the gallery.

My case argued that my human rights were breached under s.3 of ROPA 1983, which refers to the general and local elections, and the Court victory includes local elections, so it's back to the drawing board chaps! And, 2 years and under ruled unlawful in Canada and the Court criticised Kennedy LJ, in my High Court application for deferring to Parliament.

Jack Straw is a liar, it is not a tricky issue at all but a simple issue complicated by politicians trying to get around the ruling. Straw should have either laid a draft Bill before Parliament or made a s.10 remedial order under the HRA to amend s.3 of ROPA.

As Del Boy used to say, David Davis is a "prize plonker"! The politicians first turned it into a drama and then created a crisis. It is not the ECtHR which can be accused of interfering because the UK signed up to individual petition and the Court has the authority to make the decision it arrived at. Parliament abdicated responsibility when it refused to debate the issue. Therefore, the decision is not for Parliament but under the subsudiarity principle Parliament should have ensured that the Secretary of State for Justice fulfilled his legal responsibilities.

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