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Monday, May 21, 2012

Will the human rights court throw Britain a lifeline on prisoner votes?

Will the human rights court throw Britain a lifeline on prisoner votes?

If Strasbourg upholds its previous judgments, Cameron shouldn't expect the bill of rights commission to come to his rescue

"Will the European court of human rights throw Britain a lifeline tomorrow? The court's grand chamber will decide whether laws that prevent a murderer from voting amount to a breach of his human rights. The killer in question is not John Hirst, whose victory on this point in 2005 provoked a continuing standoff between the British government and the committee of ministers responsible for enforcing the court's judgments".

The UK is not in any danger of dying if it gives all convicted prisoners the vote, therefore I am puzzled by the author's headline suggesting that the UK is in grave danger and in need of being rescued.

"Britain, which has an obvious interest in overturning Hirst, was given permission to submit arguments in support of Italy". The UK's one and only chance to overturn Hirst v UK (No2) was when it sought to appeal against the Chamber judgment to the Grand Chamber. According to the ECHR:

"Article 44 – Final judgments

1. The judgment of the Grand Chamber shall be final".

The UK is already dead in the water, and has been since 6 October 2005. Latvia joined Hirst No2 as an interested party and has since granted all prisoners the vote. Throwing a life line in such circumstances is as pointless as Dominic Grieve tilting at windmills by joining Scoppola v Italy (No3) in Strasbourg. There is no provision under the Convention system for overturning a Grand Chamber judgment via another Grand Chamber judgment. Any legal commentator worth his salt should be aware of this fact. If the Grand Chamber decided to set a new precedent, I predict it would be the end of the Council of Europe, Convention, Court and Committee of Ministers. It would mean that the defender of human rights sacrificed human rights to appease a human rights violating nation.

My understanding is that, oddly, the UK secured a delay in the execution of Greens and MT v UK until 6 months after the final decision in Scoppola. There is no provision under the ECHR for anyone to allow the UK to delay implementation of Hirst No2. If I am wrong, perhaps our esteemed legal commentator will take the time to correct me? In my view, the Registrar of the Court erred in law by granting the UK 6 months extra after the judgment in Greens had become final. In Frodl v Austria and Greens the Grand Chamber had refused permission to appeal. Austria amended its electoral law following the judgment. Oddly, the Grand Chamber decided to hear the appeal in Scoppola even though the Chamber had followed the Hirst test. In my view, when Dominic Grieve started trying to appeal against Hirst in Scoppola the President of the Court should have stopped him in his tracks and announced that it was an abuse of process. All of a sudden the ECtHR has suffered a lack of legitimacy, when it all started out it was the UK which lacked the legitimacy.

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