UK may not have to give prisoners the vote after all

8 September 2011 by

The Ministry of Justice has just released its annual report to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Responding to human rights judgments.

The report is worth reading. It contains useful summaries of the 17 European Court of Human Rights judgments against the UK in 2010 and the government’s response to them.

But what is really interesting is what it says about prisoner votes, and the government’s 6-year delay in implementing the 2005 decision in Hirst (No.2) v UK.

I have dealt with the background in previous posts, most recently this one; see also the court’s useful factsheet. In Greens and M.T. v. the United Kingdom the government boldly sought and failed to reverse the decision of the court’s Grand Chamber in Hirst No. 2. The UK was accordingly given a deadline of 11 October 2011 to remove its indiscriminate ban on prisoner voting. But with just five weeks to spare, the UK may now have another bite of the cherry on prisoner votes. According to the report:

In July, the Grand Chamber accepted a referral in the case of Scoppola v Italy… A hearing before the Grand Chamber has been scheduled for 2 November 2011. The legal issues which arise in Scoppola under Article 3 of Protocol 1 are analogous to those which arose in Hirst and in Greens and MT, and the Second Section referred in its judgment to Hirst, as did the Italian Government in its referral request.

Scoppola v Italy (No. 3) (only available in French, but the English press release is here) is another prisoner voting case. The Strasbourg court found that Italy’s policy of imposing lifelong bans on voting to prisoners serving life sentences or sentences of over five years was a violation of Article 3, Protocol 1, the right to free elections. The court repeated the words of the Grand Chamber in Hirst No.2, that a blanket ban was an

automatic and indiscriminate restriction on a vitally important Convention right … falling outside any acceptable margin of appreciation, however wide that margin may be.

The Italian government has been given leave to appeal to the Grand Chamber, the court’s highest level of appeal. And according to the MoJ report, the UK is joining in with the appeal:

the Government has sought leave to intervene in the Scoppola hearing and to defer the time limit specified in Greens and MT, which is due to expire on 11 October 2011. The Government was notified on 31 August that the Court has granted an extension of six months from the date of the Scoppola judgment

It seems unlikely that the Grand Chamber will reverse its own ruling in Hirst No. 2, given that it was made in such strong terms. But assuming that the court could take a while to publish its ruling in Scoppola, perhaps up to a year, the government could have a further year and a half before it has provide prisoner the vote.

The other option is that the court may indeed reverse Hirst No. 2, giving states the ability to impose blanket bans, perhaps in relation to the most serious crimes. Given that John Hirst was convicted of manslaughter and Mr Franco Scoppola of murder, both cases could fall within this exception.

Whatever the result in Scoppola, the UK could have been granted nearly 8 years since Hirst No. 2 without having to do anything about it. In March I questioned whether the UK’s tactics of procrastination on this issue were unappealing, and Dr Ed Bates suggested the government may have been misusing the court’s process. But whatever you view on the tactics, they seem to be working.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Related posts

1 comment;

  1. DK says:

    I have just spend the morning reading the MoJ report and I agree that is very informative and not just in relation to the issue of prisoner votes.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB

This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.




Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals Anne Sacoolas anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board care homes Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus coronavirus act 2020 costs costs budgets Court of Protection covid crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy diplomatic relations disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Facial Recognition Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control hague convention Harry Dunn Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy procurement Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecutions prostituton Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation refugee rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania round-up Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence shamima begum Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism The Round Up tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Weekly Round-up Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: