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Monday, August 20, 2012

Prisoners votes still on the agenda

Prisoners votes still on the agenda

SCOPPOLA v ITALY (No. 3): Getting Prisoner Voting Right?

By Natasha Holcroft-Emmess 

In Scoppola v Italy (No. 3) (Application no. 126/05, 22 May 2012) the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights once again engaged with the vexed issue of prisoners’ voting rights. 

Italian legislation permanently disenfranchised prisoners convicted of specific offences against the State and those sentenced to more than five years’ incarceration. The applicant was disenfranchised as a result of his sentence to life imprisonment and ban from public office. It was argued that this violated his right to vote, which the Court has read into Article 3 Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’). By a majority, the Grand Chamber held that Italian law did not violate Article 3 Protocol 1 ECHR.

SCOPPOLA v. ITALY (No. 3): A Step Backwards

By Reuven (Ruvi) Ziegler

In her recent post, Natasha Holcroft-Emmess critiques the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber (GC) judgment in Scoppola (no. 3); she rightly notes that the GC has taken a step backwards in terms of protecting prisoners’ voting rights. Unbound by constraints of Strasbourg jurisprudence, I have made elsewhere ‘the case for letting prisoners vote’, arguing that its use as a punishment should cease. In this post, I would like to suggest that, while the GC was professing to follow its 2005 decision in Hirst (no. 2), it was instead the First Section Chamber judgment in Frodl that was more faithful to Hirst (no. 2)’s logic.
In Hirst, the GC ‘read’ a proportionality requirement into Article 3 of the (First) Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the right to free elections’). It then held [82] the UK legislation disenfranchising all prisoners for the duration of their prison sentence to be ‘a blunt instrument’ that ‘applies automatically to such prisoners, irrespective of the length of their sentence and irrespective of the nature or gravity of their offence and their individual circumstances.


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