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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ministers in climbdown over prison vote rights

Ministers in climbdown over prison vote rights

By Nick Robinson BBC political editor

The government is preparing to scale back plans to give the right to vote to thousands of prisoners serving sentences of under four years.

Ministers now hope to limit the right to those sentenced to less than a year and are prepared to take the risk of being sued.

David Cameron recently said giving inmates the vote made him feel "ill".

But he warned that the government faced paying out more than £160m in compensation if it did not do so.

Ministers proposed changing the law on prisoners' voting rights following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

Cameron meeting

John Hirst, a prisoner convicted of manslaughter, successfully argued that his human rights had been violated by not being allowed to take part in elections.

But Mr Cameron is now thought to accept that the Commons is unlikely to vote for a proposal which could involve granting the vote to up to 28,000 prisoners, including 6,000 jailed for violent crime, more than 1,700 sex offenders, more than 4,000 burglars and 4,300 imprisoned for drug offences.

The BBC understands that ministers now hope they will be able to give the vote only to those prisoners sentenced to serve a year or less.

They are aware, however, that this policy will be tested in the courts and that they might lose again.

Even this concession may not persuade many MPs who want to make a stand against the Strasbourg court.

The Commons will have the opportunity to defy the court's ruling in a couple of weeks' time when the Commons debates a motion tabled by the Conservative David Davis and Labour's Jack Straw.

The prime minister met the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs on Wednesday and was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling on this issue.

Comment: It is only right that Ministers are climbing down on their their new proposals for a “four year cut-off” policy, because it would not have satisfied the Committee of Ministers, Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights, all are demanding that the UK gives all convicted prisoners their human right to vote under Article 3 of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Given that all convicted prisoners must have the human right to vote, and less than 4 years would not suffice, it follows that 12 months and less is even more unsatisfactory. Not only with the MoJ get sued, there will be sanctions imposed by Europe for non-compliance with my case.

Already because the UK failed to fully comply over the last 5 years, the taxpayers face a bill of £135m. If the vote is not given in time for the elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and AV in England by 6 May 2011, then the bill will be doubled to £270m. It's the taxpayers money that David Cameron is throwing away into the pockets of prisoners. If they are not fiddling their expenses they are set on charing the public in other ways!

Of course Ministers should not only have proposed changing the law, there is a requirement that the UK does so. All Kenneth Clarke needs to do is make a remedial order under s.10 of the HRA 1998 to amend s.3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. Sorted. Simples.

1 comment:

bonzadog said...

I applaud the goverments stance of standing up to the european lawmakers, why should an individual who has chosen to break the laws of a democratic society be allowed to participate in that society. You gave away your human rights when you chose to take the life of another. A person who takes away the rights of another by taking their life should never have the right to vote, other offenders should only have the right to vote when they have proven they have had sufficient rehabilitation to be able to live accoding to the laws of the democratic society.