August 5, 2021

UK prisoner voting rights breached, European judges rule

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_80902834_80902833From BBC
The rights of UK prisoners were breached when they were prevented 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.

The court has called for a change in the law but this has not happened.

Both the previous Labour government and current coalition have failed to legislate – although various proposals have been debated in an attempt to end the long-running row with the Strasbourg court.

This latest case concerned 1,015 prisoners, a grouping of long-standing prisoner voting cases, and the court ruled there had been a violation of Article 3 of the first protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights – right to a free election.

_80902832_80902523BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said the ruling was “not a surprise” and there had been a succession of similar judgements over the last decade.

He said there was now a “stand-off” and nothing would happen until after the next election.

The European Court of Human Rights oversees human rights law that the UK has signed up to
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The government has always been clear that it believes prisoner voting is an issue that should ultimately be decided in the UK. However we welcome the court’s decision to refuse convicted prisoners costs or damages.”

Sean Humber, from law firm Leigh Day, representing 554 of the prisoners, welcomed the court’s ruling and said they would be seeking a review of the decision not to award compensation.

“Unfortunately, we seem to be in the sad position where the government is taking an almost perverse pleasure in ignoring successive court judgments and is content to continue violating the human rights of thousands of its citizens,” he said.

“It should be worrying to all of us that the government appears to have so little regard for its international human rights obligations or indeed the rule of law.”

The European court first ruled back in 2005 that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting must be amended.

The case was brought by convicted killer John Hirst, who has since been released after serving 25 years in jail.

After the latest court ruling, 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.

“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.”

Prisoner in his cell
European Court of Human Rights

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