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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Judge throws out murderer's bid to vote in May election

Judge throws out murderer's bid to vote in May election

Published Date: 09 April 2011


A CONVICTED murderer's attempt to win the right to vote in the Scottish election has been rejected by a judge.
George McGeoch, who has committed a string of offences since being jailed for life for slashing a man's throat, claimed it would be against his rights under European law if he was denied the vote on 5 May.

His lawyers sought judicial review of a decision of an electoral registration officer to refuse to include McGeoch's name on the electoral roll.

Lord Tyre ruled at the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday that, as there were ways of challenging the officer's decision - an appeal to a sheriff and, if necessary, to the Registration Appeal Court - the judicial review procedure was excluded.

McGeoch was ordered to serve at least 13 years of a life sentence for the murder of a man in Inverness in 1998, but any possible release date has been put back by a subsequent sentence of seven and a half years for threatening security guards with a makeshift knife and escaping during a hospital visit.

On another occasion, McGeoch, armed with a razor blade, held two nurses hostage in his prison cell and threatened to kill them. He is in Dundee jail.

Under the 1983 Representation of the People Act, convicted prisoners are not given a vote at parliamentary or local government elections. In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights declared a blanket ban unlawful.

In refusing his application, the local electoral registration officer said that, in spite of the European court's ruling, no changes had been made to the law and the 1983 act "applies until such a change is made by the Westminster government".

Lord Tyre was told that the government intended to replace the blanket ban by one on prisoners serving four years or more, with judges having discretion to ban those given less than four years. However, nothing would be done in time by 5 May.

The judge said the difference between McGeoch's case and the one before the European Court was that he based his arguments on rights said to be given by treaties of the European Union rather than by the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The foundation of his case is his status as a citizen of the EU. Counsel submitted that he was entitled, as a citizen of the union, to vote in the forthcoming Scottish parliamentary election - the right to vote is a fundamental citizenship right," said Lord Tyre.

Aidan O'Neill, QC, for McGeoch, argued that appeals to a sheriff and possibly the Registration Appeal Court would take too long for his right to vote to be determined in time for the impending election.

However, Lord Tyre said: "It seems to me to be entirely arbitrary to assess the adequacy of the time available for the statutory appeal by reference to the date when (McGeoch] happened to submit his application. No doubt, in an appropriate case of urgency, the procedure could be… expedited."

Life of crime

In 1999, McGeoch, from Glasgow, was jailed for life, with a 13-year minimum, for murdering a gay man in Inverness, by slashing his throat.
In 2001, armed with a razor blade, he held two nurses hostage for five hours in Saughton Prison, Edinburgh, receiving eight years to run concurrently with his life term. In 2007, he received a concurrent sentence of three years for slashing a fellow prisoner with a broken coffee jar. In 2009, McGeoch fled a prison van after threatening two security guards with a makeshift knife and was given seven and a half years, consecutive to the life term

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