A £1,000 prisoner vote signing on bonus? [Updated x 2]

Update | The Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Draft Bill has been released. It will not be put straight before Parliament for a vote; rather, it will be put to a Committee of both Houses for full Parliamentary scrutiny which could propose amendments, then back to the Government which will “reflect on its recommendations” and subsequently introduce a bill. There is no timetable set out for this process, but I imagine the Council of Europe may want a timetable imposed.

The bill sets out three options:

  1. A ban for prisoners sentenced to 4 years or more.
  2. A ban for prisoners sentenced to more than 6 months.
  3. A ban for all convicted prisoners – a restatement of the existing ban.

One interesting point on a quick read through is that option three “would re-enact the current general ban on prisoner voting, with some minor changes.” The language is indeed different to that used to enact the current ban, which is contained in section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

What, if anything, is the effect of this change of wording? [Update: See Carl Gardner’s post and Joshua Rozenberg’s article – the explanatory notes state that the new wording intends to make clear “that a prisoner remains disqualified from voting when on temporary release from prison.“]

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Today, the Government is to outline its legislative proposals on prisoner votes to Parliament. MPs are apparently to get three options to choose from, including removing the ban for prisoners serving six months or less and those serving four years or less. A third option will be to maintain the status quo, with no convicted prisoners being able to vote.

The timing is no coincidence; today is the Council of Europe’s (CoE) deadline for the UK to “bring forward legislative proposals” – see this press release. My view is that if Parliament ultimately chooses the status quo, i.e. that no additional prisoners will get the vote, this is unlikely to be enough to satisfy the CoE. After all, the Hirst No. 2 judgment was that the indiscriminate and blanket ban on convicted prisoners was unlawful. Therefore, to comply with the judgment, the UK must remove that indiscriminate ban. That said, as the court has also made clear, the UK is to be given a wide space within which to end the ban, which means it could comply by only giving a very limited number of prisoners the vote – my full thoughts are set out here.

One additional thought. I have already said that this could be very expensive for the UK. It could be that each prisoner, historically affected by the ban, could receive around £1,000 damages. But what about future prisoners? Taking this unfortunate impasse to its logical conclusion, many or all future prisoners will be affected by the ongoing breach. Unless I am missing something, they could, in principle, also be entitled to £1,000 each. A nice signing-on bonus for UK prisoners, although probably one that the public would object to.

All of this could be solved by giving a very limited number of prisoners the vote.

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7 thoughts on “A £1,000 prisoner vote signing on bonus? [Updated x 2]

  1. Does anyone seriously think a professional burglar cares deeply about voting?
    Does anyone seriously think the public at large care whether same sex partners can marry in church or not?
    Those who work however DO care deeply if they are worse off than those who do not work.
    Those who marry care deeply if they are worse off than those couples who choose not to marry for no other reason than the marriage itself/
    Why don’t those in power concentrate on things the people realy care for?

  2. For me the answers to your questions are “Yes – I do care about voting rights for all people” and “Yes I do care about equality between heterosexual and same sex couples”. I cannot see into the minds of “burglars”, either in general or specific, or the “public at large” – do you have such superhuman powers? If you do I would like to get to know you better, otherwise I don’t!

    As to your latter question, I have a tad more sympathy, but as far as i am aware there is no real conflict as governments have a wide legislative programme at any one time which can meet a variety of different priorities for different groups – or are you suggesting minority rights and interests should always be trumped by priorities set by a perceived or real majority. That sounds a little like a tyranny to me.

  3. Only 4% of convicts wished to vote anyway. The UK ignores the ECHR on other issues (Marper) so why is this any different? Like a stroppy kid in the classroom.

  4. Pingback: Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill | Head of Legal

  5. I wonder if one way is to keep the present ban, but allow the sentencing judge to remove it, if the convict can show good cause?

  6. For me the answers to your questions are “Yes – I do care about voting rights for all people” and “Yes I do care about equality between heterosexual and same sex couples”. I cannot see into the minds of “burglars”, either in general or specific, or the “public at large” – do you have such superhuman powers? If you do I would like to get to know you better, otherwise I don’t!

    As to your latter question, I have a tad more sympathy, but as far as i am aware there is no real conflict as governments have a wide legislative programme at any one time which can meet a variety of different priorities for different groups – or are you suggesting minority rights and interests should always be trumped by priorities set by a perceived or real majority. That sounds a little like a tyranny to me.

  7. NIX NASh /PAUL CROFTS :- Most career criminals are by definition not very civic minded so it is not difficult to surmise that voting is not a priority for them especially when considering the next “job” once out.I am not religious but I don’t see why same sex couples should be able to force marriage in churches but not in Mosques.
    That sounds like discrimination to me .Lastly to say that no couple should be penalised for getting married and should be equally well off taxwise with unmarried couples does not sound anything like tyranny to me !

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