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Friday, February 18, 2011

Prisoners lose voting compensation bid

Prisoners lose voting compensation bid

By Jan Colley, PA

Friday, 18 February 2011

The High Court has blocked a compensation bid by prisoners barred from voting in last year's general election.

Claims have been launched in county courts nationwide by 585 serving prisoners, with another 1,000 potential cases in the pipeline, Mr Justice Langstaff was told in London.

Jason Coppel, for the Ministry of Justice, said the cases should be struck out as they were "misconceived and bound to fail".

"Any remedy is to be sought in Strasbourg and not the domestic courts," he said.

Convicted prisoners are excluded from the franchise by the Representation of the People Act 1983, which has been held as incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention.

This has given rise to litigation on a number of fronts - in Strasbourg where 2,500 UK claims are pending, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and previously in the High Court in the case of convicted murderer Peter Chester.

Giving his ruling today, Mr Justice Langstaff said: "The case was heard a day before Parliament debated whether it should introduce legislation to amend the 1983 Act.

"Though the subject matter of each is the same - the enfranchismement of prisoners - the role of the courts and of the legislature are distinct.

"It is no part of the court's function to express any view as to the nature of legislative change, if any: merely to rule on that which the laws as currently enacted by Parliament require.

"This judgment is to the effect that, applying those laws, including the Human Rights Act 1998, a prisoner will not succeed before a court in England and Wales in any claim for damages or a declaration based on his disenfranchisement while serving his sentence".

Comment: I have not had the opportunity to read the legal arguments submitted before the court, nor the court judgment itself. However, in my opinion, there is scope for appeal.

Hirst v UK (No2) ruled that s.3 of ROPA 1983 is incompatible with Aticle 3 of the First Protocol of the Convention.

There is an obligation upon the UK to amend the law to make it compatible.

The UK has failed in this obligation.

This means that convicted prisoners denied their human right to vote do not have an effective remedy before a national authority. This is a breach of Article 13 of the Convention.

Article 13 of the Convention has not been incorporated into domestic law, as it stands it means that the HRA is incompatible with the Convention.

Under the subsidiarity principle the UK should ensure that the human rights under the Convention are available to all citizens.

The whole purpose of bringing rights home was to prevent cases going to Strasbourg. If the courts are now saying they are not prepared to provide an effective remedy and that the only option is for prisoners to go to Strasbourg, then the whole objective of human rights in this country has been defeated.

It is a sad day for British justice. It should serve as a warning for all those in support of a British Bill of Rights, that British injustice and not justice will prevail. The people count for nothing, and their votes are worth nothing. It used to mean that priceless was very valuable, now it means precisely the opposite.

Mr Justice Langstaff should be very ashamed that he is propping up a dictatorship in Number 10 Downing Street.

UPDATE: I have just contacted Sean Humber of Leigh Day and Co, ambulance chasing solicitors, and he is not available but his secretary said it was his application which failed. Prisoners would be well advised to stay away from this totally incompetent lawyer who has no experience of prison law whatsoever.

Updated Update: Sean Humber has phoned me to state that he did not take this case, however, he has got some within the backlog of cases at the ECtHR.


Tim said...

"Any remedy is to be sought in Strasbourg and not the domestic courts," he said.

Aren't applicants required to exhaust all the domestic channels before they can go to Strasbourg? Isn't that what these prisoners were trying to do?

criminal records said...

Still prisoners have their own right personally and legislatively that should be respected and to be followed.

jailhouselawyer said...

Tim: I went to Strasbourg and the Court decided that the UK was guilty and had to provide a remedy. So far the UK has failed to honour its obligations. This judge, like the others, is abdicating responsibility and acting instead as goalkeeper for the Secretary of State. He needs to be awre that I have already scored a goal. Time to get the ball out of the net and let's get on with the game.