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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Caroline Lucas MP responds to JHL

Caroline Lucas MP responds to JHL

Our ref: CL.JH.C0082.LM.29.03.12

Dear John,

Thank you for your email about prisoners’ voting rights. I am sorry for not replying sooner; we had a staff shortage in my office earlier this year, which, together with high levels of correspondence, has meant I’ve not been able to respond as quickly as normal.

I am proud to have voted last year in support of the rights of prisoners to vote. I believe that a blanket ban is contrary to the rule of law and undermines the principle that in a democracy, voting is both a right and a responsibility. Moreover, by failing to comply with the European Court judgement, the UK risks having to pay enormous compensation claims, an unnecessary waste of UK taxpayers' money. I've spoken with many in the criminal justice system who believe that removal of the vote runs counter to the rehabilitation of offenders, and I've discussed the issue with constituents in Brighton. Many of them share my views, and those of Dr Peter Selby, former Bishop to HM Prisons and now President of the National Council for Independent Monitoring Boards for Prisons who stated that “Denying convicted prisoners the right to vote serves no purpose of deterrence or reform. What it does is to state in the clearest terms society's belief that once convicted you are a non-person...and as such has no place in expressing a civilised attitude towards those in prison”.

As you outline, in April 2011 the government lost its final appeal against giving prisoners the right to vote, following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, but the government is continuing to use the case of Scoppola (no. 3) v. Italy to justify yet further delay. The deadline for the UK to submit an Action Plan has been extended to six months after the judgement, which is expected this year. This will provide a further opportunity for me to argue for the right decision.

I am also aware that the UK is seeking to limit the role of the ECHR, proposals for which will be discussed at a Council of Europe Summit next month in Brighton. I will be doing my utmost to highlight the need for the government to uphold the human rights of prisoners and others in the UK.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me. I wish you all the best with your health, and please be reassured that I will continue to fight for the voting rights of prisoners and human rights more widely. Please do also raise this with your own MP if you have not already done so.

Best wishes,


Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Tel: 020 7219 7025

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