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Friday, April 15, 2011

Prisoners Votes: European Court Of Human Rights Challenges Westminister's Sovereignty Putting the Government On The Spot

Prisoners Votes: European Court Of Human Rights Challenges Westminister's Sovereignty Putting the Government On The Spot

Source: eGov monitor - A Policy Dialogue Platform
Published Thursday, 14 April, 2011 - 22:42

The European Court of Human Rights refused to even hear the British government's appeal on prisoners votes instead issued an ultimatum. This puts the coalition government in a bind.

The Parliament had voted overwhelmingly not to grant voting rights to prisoners following the initial ruling of the ECHR that such laws violate human rights. Instead of respecting the will of the sovereign British Parliamnet, the ECHR told the British government that it has six months to comply with its ruling.

If the government fails to comply with the ruling, like the previous Labour administration then the ECHR would most likely rule in favour of compensation claims made by prisoners. It is estimated that the cost of comepnsation to prisoners for taking away their voting rights could reach £150 Million. But that would surely multiply as more and more prisoners see this as an easy way to make money.

When the ECHR made its first ruling the Prime Minister said that it made him "physically sick". Ministers have said they are "disappointed" but most MPs are very angry about a court usurping the Parliament's Sovereignty.

“It is shocking arrogance for the Strasbourg Court to dismiss the legitimate concerns of Britain's elected lawmakers without even listening to the arguments," Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP said. "“Britain must stand firm against this growing abuse of power by unaccountable judges."

However there is a minority opinion as well - not surprisingly there are some British MEPs such as Sarah Ludford believe it is a good thing to have European Courts overrule Sovereign Parliament.

"Talking about parliamentary sovereignty and that judges should not call politicians to account: that is very dangerous and populist nonsense, quite frankly," she said. However her Conservative colleague Martin Callanan, like his party members in Westminster argue the opposite.

"It's the problem of these vague well-meaning charters - such as the convention on human rights and the charter of fundamental rights," Martin Callanan said. He accused the ECHR of being too activists and urged the government to take a hard line.

British judges have said that failing to comply with ECHR rulings would not violate British laws and some MPs want the government to bring in legislation prohibiting compensation payments to prisoners.

Should a foreign court without any democratic accountability and little knowledge of British law be allowed to overrule the sovereign Parliament? Despite opposition from some Liberal Democrats and few others, there is overwhelming support in Westminster and beyond for the government to say NO to the ECHR.

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