Search Results for: prisoner voting


Is the Attorney General right on prisoner votes and subsidiarity? – Dr Ed Bates

27 October 2011 by

In his speech earlier this week the Attorney General announced that he would appear in person before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in two weeks’ time, when it hears Scoppola v Italy No2, a case concerning prisoner voting. The United Kingdom is due to intervene in this case, for reasons that readers of this blog will be fully aware of.

I agree with Adam Wagner’s comments that the Attorney General’s speech should (if I may respectfully say so) be applauded for the mature and positive way it addressed some very important issues regarding the future protection of human rights at both the domestic and European level. Here I would like to focus in particular upon what Dominic Grieve said about prisoner voting, and his forthcoming appearance at Strasbourg. On page 9 of his speech he stated:

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The latest prisoner votes judgment may be our Marbury v Madison – Jamie Fletcher & Charlie Eastaugh

20 October 2013 by

Marbury_v_Madison_John_Marshall_by_SwatjesterAt first glance, prisoner voting proponents may interpret the Supreme Court’s R (Chester) v Justice Secretary decision (see Adam Wagner’s previous post as a defeat for advancing prisoner voting rights in the UK. This blog post offers a different perspective. By comparing Chester to the seminal US Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison, we summarise that such proponents should take a step back and see the wood, rather than merely the trees. This is because Lord Mance’s Chester judgment offers human rights advocates, and therefore supporters of prisoner voting rights, an unequivocal foundation from which to defend future human rights claims.

Chester does not achieve the same ends as Marbury. Marbury established the institution of judicial review in the United States, against Congressional legislation. Chester does not disturb the supremacy of the UK Parliament. Comparison arises within the strategies of the leading judgments in each case. Chief Justice Marshall’s judgment in Marbury is celebrated not only for its conclusion, that the Constitution of the United States is the highest form of law and therefore “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is”, but also for how it reached that conclusion.

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Prisoners not entitled to compensation for voting ban

19 February 2011 by

Tovey & Ors v Ministry of Justice [2011] EWHC 271 (QB) (18 February 2011) – read judgment.

In a case heard the day before Parliament debated whether it should amend the law preventing prisoners from voting, the High Court struck out a claim for compensation by a prisoner in respect of his disenfranchisement.

Although it was “not part of the court’s function to express any view as to the nature of legislative change”, this ruling confirmed that as a matter of English law, including the Human Rights Act 1998, a prisoner will not succeed before a court in England and Wales in any claim for damages or a declaration based on his disenfranchisement while serving his sentence.
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Austrian prisoner vote decision now final, implications for UK

4 November 2010 by

Updated | The dust has hardly settled on the government’s decision to allow prisoners to vote when, with uncanny timing, the European Court of Human Rights has denied the Austrian government permission to appeal in a similar case involving prisoners’ voting rights.

The Strasbourg court has notified Austria that its request for referral of the case of Frodl v Austria to the Grand Chamber has been rejected. This is likely to have a significant impact on the UK’s implementation of the prisoner voting system, as the court in Frodl effectively ruled that the disenfranchisement of prisoners could only happen on rare occasions: namely, where a prisoner was detained as a result of the abuse of a public position or a threat to undermine the rule of law or democratic foundations. As I said in Monday’s post:

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Prisoner votes and the democratic deficit

20 September 2011 by

I posted recently on the ongoing saga surrounding the UK’s implementation of the Hirst No. 2 case, in which the European Court of Human Rights found that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The correspondence between the court and the UK Government is now available and I have reproduced it below.

In short, the UK previously had until 11 October 2011 to “introduce legislative proposals” to end the ban. But it has now been given a reprieve as a result of seeking to intervene in another case, Scoppola v Italy (No. 3(available in FrenchEnglish press release here), which is going to the court’s Grand Chamber  This is another prisoner voting case.

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European Court of Human Rights retreats but doesn’t surrender on prisoner votes

22 May 2012 by

CASE OF SCOPPOLA v. ITALY (No. 3)(Application no. 126/05) – Read judgment / press release / press release on UK implications

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that states must allow for at least some prisoners to vote, but that states have a wide discretion as to deciding which prisoners. This amounts to a retreat on prisoner votes, but certainly no surrender. As I predicted, the court reaffirmed the principles set out in Hirst No. 2, that an automatic and indiscriminate bans breach the European Convention on Human Rights, but also reaffirmed that it was up to states to decide how to remove those indiscriminate bans.

I have compared the prisoner voting issue to a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel. Today’s ruling means that the ball is now back on the UK’s side of the table.

Although Scoppola is a case which arose in Italy, the decision is of critical important to the UK for two reasons. First, the Court has made clear to the UK Government that it now has six months from today to bring forth legislative proposals which will end the blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners – see the Court’s helpful press release which explains the effect on the UK. Secondly, the Grand Chamber has now clarified the basic outline of how it expects states to comply with the original prisoner votes ruling, also of the Grand Chamber, in Hirst No. 2. For the full background, see my post from last week or Joshua Rozenberg’s excellent article on Guardian.co.uk.


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Does Article 5 apply to extended sentences?

24 August 2015 by

Photo credit: Guardian

Photo credit: The Guardian

Brown v Parole Board for Scotland, [2015] CSIH 59 – read judgment

Scotland’s civil appeal court, the Inner House of the Court of Session, has refused a prisoner’s appeal for damages resulting from an alleged failure to afford him a reasonable opportunity to rehabilitate himself during his extended sentence.

by David Scott

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Family pressure group “had no business” in applying for habeas corpus on behalf of mother

18 November 2014 by

6a00d83451ccc469e201a73e196361970dJustice for Families Ltd v Secretary of State for Justice [2014] EWCA Civ 1477 – read judgment

An  application for habeas corpus by a pressure group was completely “hopeless” and “entirely misconceived”. The appellant’s challenge to the decision of the judge below was equally devoid of merit.  Third party applications are only appropriate where the prisoner is incommunicado or where the impediment preventing the prisoner from acting is ignorance or disability. It was entirely inappropriate in these circumstances, where the prisoner had been represented by counsel throughout the proceedings which resulted in her imprisonment, or where her detention had already ended before the application for habeas corpus was made.

The principle of “habeas corpus”

The right of a stranger to apply for habeas corpus is a rather singular thing since it does not depend on that third party to be instructed by the prisoner on behalf of whom the application is being made, nor even on the knowledge of the prisoner that someone has decided to act in his/her interest in such a way.

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An unappealing tactic on prisoner votes?

14 March 2011 by

I recently compared the prisoner votes issue to a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel. The latest twist in the saga is that the UK government is seeking to overturn the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in Hirst No. 2. This is certainly a daring tactic, given that the ruling by the Grand Chamber is not open to appeal.

To set out the very basic background (again), in the 2005 decision of Hirst (No. 2),the Grand Chamber of the European Court held the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting is in breach of the electoral right under Article 1 of Protocol 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ruled that the ban was a “general, automatic and indiscriminate restriction on a vitally important Convention right“. Article 46 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which the UK signed up to, obliges it to “abide by the final judgment” of the European Court of Human Rights. So in theory, it should already complied with the judgment.

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Lords Reform Bill incompatible with human rights law, says Deputy Prime Minister

28 June 2012 by

The Deputy Prime Minister has said that he cannot declare the Coalition Government’s House of Lords Reform Bill as compatible with the Human Rights Act, as prisoners will be banned from voting for Lords if the bill becomes law.

Under section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998, a Minister of Crown in charge of a Bill must make a statement to Parliament on whether the Bill is compatible with European Convention on Human Rights. The Explanatory Notes to the new Bill reveal that no such statement of compatibility can be made in this case:

278… the Deputy Prime Minister has said that he is unable to sign a statement under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Government wishes Parliament to proceed with the Bill notwithstanding that such a statement of compatibility cannot be made.

The reason that the Bill will not be compatible with the ECHR is that perennial headache for this (and indeed the last) Government, prisoner votes. As the explanatory notes explain:

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Convicted prisoner has no entitlement to all the rights enjoyed by others

14 October 2013 by

prison2aCossey, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2013] EWHC 3029 (Admin) – read judgment

The High Court has dismissed an “absolutely meritless” claim by a prisoner that, in serving the non-tariff part of his sentence, he should be afforded all the Convention rights enjoyed by prisoners on remand or those serving time for civil offences such as contempt of court.  As he had been deprived of the full panoply of rights, he said, he was a victim of discrimination contrary to Article 14.

This, said Mostyn J, was

 The sort of claim that gives the Convention, incorporated into our domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998, a bad name and which furnishes its critics with ammunition to shoot it down.

Were the key architect of the Convention, Lord Kilmuir, alive today, continued the judge, “he would be amazed to be told that a claim for violation of Article 14 was being advanced on the facts of this case.”
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The case for letting prisoners vote – Reuven Ziegler

24 May 2012 by

Last Tuesday saw the latest episode in the prisoner voting legal saga with the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber’s judgment  reversing the Chamber judgment which found Italy’s automatic ban on voting for prisoners serving over 3 years in prison (and a lifetime ban with the possibility of future relief for those sentenced to more than 5 years) in breach of Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Adam Wagner has compared  the prisoner voting issue to a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel, noting that ‘the ball is now back on the UK’s side of the table’. Indeed, the UK must still allow at least some prisoners the vote, as required by the 2005 judgment in Hirst v UK (No.2) and the 2010 judgment in Greens & MT v UK.  Over at EJIL: Talk!, Marko Milanovic rightly accounts for the unholy mix of law and (inter)national politics that has generated the Grand Chamber’s unprincipled judgment. Indeed, as Carl Gardner suggests on the Head of Legal blog all that logically remains of the Hirst judgment is that automatic disenfranchisement of prisoners that are sentenced for less than 3 years (probably) breaches the convention.

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

22 November 2012 by

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.

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Slopping out regime in prison not in breach of human rights, judge rules

20 December 2011 by

Desmond Grant and Roger Charles Gleaves v Ministry of Justice High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) 19 December 2011 – read judgment

The High Court (Mr Justice Hickinbottom) has today dismissed claims by two prisoners that their rights under Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated by the prison conditions in which they were detained.

The following is based on the High Court’s summary of the case.

About 360 long term prisoners, who were at HMP Albany between 2004 and 2011, brought claims that their right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 3 and their right to respect for private and life under Article 8  had been violated by the regime under which they were detained in that prison, which included the use of a bucket for toilet purposes when they were in a locked cell and the later emptying of the bucket at a sluice (“slopping out”). Five lead claims were selected, of which two reached trial.
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