UK Prisoners banned from voting
Feb. 10, UK:
The rights of UK prisoners were violated when they were banned from voting in elections, European judges have again ruled. The case was brought by inmates who were in prison during various elections between 2009 and 2011.
This is the fourth time the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the UK‘s blanket ban on giving convicted prisoners the vote.
Judges agreed with the 1,015 convicts that their human rights had been violated while behind bars throughout various elections between 2009 and 2011.
But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) did reject the applicants’ claims for compensation and legal costs.
The ruling is expected to anger Prime Minister David Cameron who has been battling to stop prisoners being given the vote, saying the thought made him feel “physically ill.”
Grouping together the entire long-standing prisoner voting cases against the UK, the court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – right to a free election.
In August last year, the court made a similar ruling, endorsing previous cases where it was found that the blanket ban was a breach.
In September 2014, the Council of Europe‘s Committee “noted with profound concern and disappointment that the United Kingdom authorities did not introduce a Bill to parliament at the start of its 2014-2015 session as recommended by the competent parliamentary committee.”
The court urged the UK authorities to introduce such a Bill as soon as possible, and will come back to the issue later this year.
The Strasbourg court, which is not part of the EU but whose 47 member states include EU countries, has repeatedly said in legal battles dating back to 2005 that Britain’s blanket ban on votes for convicted inmates breaches their human rights.
But Cameron previously said: “If Parliament decides that prisoners should not get the vote then I think they damn well shouldn’t.
“It should be a national decision taken in our Parliament.”
Former inmate John Hirst has been campaigning for prisoner voting rights since 2001, when his legal challenge at the High Court failed.
Hirst, who served 25 years in jail after admitting the manslaughter of his landlady in 1979, pursued the case to the ECHR which first ruled in 2005 that the voting ban breached Article 3.
He said: “It is a real shame that compensation has not been awarded. While I can get some satisfaction from the ruling, the Government keeps ignoring what the ECHR is saying.
“It has been 10 years since my case and still nothing has changed. The only way I can see to force the issue is to impose some kind of financial penalty.”
Despite the Council of Europe‘s Committee of Ministers calling for a new Bill to be introduced, and a draft Bill being published in 2012, there has been no change in the legislation.
He continued saying, “What the Government needs to do is change its attitude.
“It is just this attitude of supremacy of Parliament, he added. They talk about sovereignty, when in fact they have to accept that they have given some away to Europe. “The issue is not sovereignty, the issue is them accepting that they have accepted to abide by a decision of a court that is out of this country.
“You don’t lose your status in civil society just because you’re in prison – you are still a member of the public, you are still a member of society. The vote has nothing to do with the actual punishment.”
He said that by not allowing prisoners to vote for elected representatives, there was no sense of accountability. “Without a vote, prisoners do not have a voice.
“If prisoners had the vote, then MPs would have to take note of prison conditions,” he said.
The Oslo Times