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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dear Aunty Beeb gets her knickers in a twist!

Dear Aunty Beeb gets her knickers in a twist!

Or why the BBC should not employ a political correspondent to report on a legal case!

UK to challenge prisoner votes ruling by European Court

By Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

The government has launched a legal bid to overturn a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the UK's blanket ban on prisoners voting is unlawful.

The government has previously indicated it will do the minimum to comply with the court's ruling

The UK has asked for a case brought by a convicted rapist to be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court - in effect appealing against the decision.

Ministers think if they are successful the court could drop its demand for Britain to allow prisoners votes.

MPs recently voted to keep a blanket ban in defiance of the European court.

The British government will argue the court should take into account last month's vote which although not binding on ministers showed MPs' overwhelming support for the current ban on votes for inmates.

It also wants the court to clarify what it considers to be confusing and contradictory case law.

In a written answer in the House of Commons, the Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper said he wanted the highest tier of the European Court to reconsider a ruling in November on the matter and to re-examine the principles behind a 2005 ruling known as 'Hirst'.

"The basis of the government's referral request is that we believe that the Court should look again at the principles in "Hirst" which outlaws a blanket ban on prisoners voting, particularly given the recent debate in the House of Commons," he said.

A panel of five judges will decide whether the referral should be allowed to go ahead.


1. The UK is within its rights to seek to appeal against the Chamber decision in Greens and MT v UK to the Grand Chamber.

2. If Ministers think this then they are not fit for purpose and should be sacked immediately! Ministers instead should be thinking how to fully comply with the decisions in Hirst v UK (No2) and Frodl v Austria.

3. Only some MPs engaged in the Commons vote on the motion which lacked legitimacy.

4. The UK will argue no such thing because the Court will not rehear arguments already lost in Hirst No2 and Frodl. The motion and vote was just a rehearing of arguments already lost in the highest court in Europe. The Court will not take account of the feelings of some backbench MPs who advocated that Parliament should ignore the law.

5. There is no confusing and contradictory case law. Only the UK trying to get out of a decision it lost and did not like losing and had not got a plan B ready in case it did lose. The Court's case law is consistent.

6. The highest tier has already decided in Hirst and there will be no re-examination of Hirst in Greens.

7. It is not a firm basis to argue that a fake debate in the Commons should hold sway over the highest court in Europe. This would be akin to the oil rag and not the engine driver driving the train.

8. No doubt the 5 judges will laugh this out of court!

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