prisoner votes


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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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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More shenanigans on prisoner votes

25 October 2012 by

No means no

The Government has until 22 November to put forth legislative proposals in order to comply with the court’s rulings on prisoner votes.

I will not retrace the bizarre flip-flop which took place yesterday afternoon as the Attorney General appeared to say one thing about implementing the judgment (it’s complicated) and then the Prime Minister another (no way). Joshua Rozenberg has it right when he calls the situation “profoundly depressing”. For the full background, see my post on Scoppola No. 3, the last judgment on the issue.

I do have three thoughts on the current situation. First, it has become popular to say that there may be a way of solving the crisis which doesn’t require the UK to give any more prisoners the vote, which would be to tell the European Court of Human Rights that we already let remand prisoners and others who haven’t paid fines vote. The argument has been made variously by the BBC’s Nick Robinson, The Independent’s John Rentoul and even last night by a member of the Justice Select Committee, Nick de Bois MP – he told BBC Radio 4 (from 26:25) that “you could almost argue that there isn’t a blanket ban… for example someone on prison on remand or.. for not paying a fine doesn’t lose their right to vote” (I am interviewed immediately afterwards).

In short, unless I am missing something, this argument seems bound to fail.
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Did the UK misuse European court process on prisoner votes? – Dr Ed Bates

15 April 2011 by

The recent rejection, by a panel of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, of the British government’s attempt to overturn the ruling in Greens and MT v United Kingdom (prisoner voting) case, brings into focus the role of the Strasbourg Grand Chamber.

In this post I attempt to highlight how the idea of a Grand Chamber came about, and its role under the ECHR. Building on Adam Wagner’s earlier posts, I also offer a possible explanation as to why the panel of the Grand Chamber refused a rehearing of the Greens case.

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Tick tock tick tock

13 April 2011 by

The clock is ticking again on prisoner votes. The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the UK government’s latest appeal in the long-running saga.

The UK had attempted to appeal the recent decision in Greens and M.T. v. the United Kingdom. The full background can be found in my previous post, in which I predicted that the European court would find the UK’s appeal unappealing. It has, and the result is that the UK has just under six months to remove the blanket ban on prisoners voting.

Incidentally, Rosalind’s post from earlier today relates to a separate but also interesting Scottish court judgment on prisoner votes.

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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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Prisoner votes: a ping pong ball in a wind tunnel

10 February 2011 by

Updated | Parliament is currently debating on whether prisoners should be given the vote. The motion can be found here and you can watch the debate on Parliament TV.

A Washington Post correspondent recently said US President Barack Obama had been “bounding around like a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel” on to the situation in Egypt. In many ways, the UK government has been doing the same on the 5-year-old judgment in Hirst v UK, in which, as has been endlessly repeated in the media, the European Court of Human Rights’ grand chamber ruled that the indiscriminate ban on prisoners voting breached Article 1 of Protocol 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Prisoner voting and the £160m question

20 January 2011 by

The government has reportedly revised its plan to allow prisoners serving less than 4 years to vote in elections. Ministers now seek to limit the right to those sentenced to a year or less.

A looming presence in the debate has been the much-touted figure of £160m compensation which the prime minister has warned Parliament that the UK will have to pay if it does not comply with a 6-year-old judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (see my last post on the issue for the full background). But where did this figure arise from? And is it right?

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Court of appeal rejects prisoner vote plea, government announces plans

17 December 2010 by

Chester v Secretary of State for Justice & Anor [2010] EWCA Civ 1439 (17 December 2010) – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has rejected a claim by a man convicted of raping and murdering a seven-year-old girl that the court should grant him the right to vote. Meanwhile, following the judgment the government has announced that it plans to allow all prisoners less than four years to vote.

Mr Chester’s case is interesting from a constitutional perspective, although the decision is not too surprising, as I will explain. But it does highlight the complex and sometimes unsatisfactory manner in which human rights are protected in the UK.

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Europe sets deadline for UK to let prisoners vote, or else

23 November 2010 by

Updated | Greens and M.T. v. the United Kingdom (application nos. 60041/08 & 60054/08) – Read judgment / press release (which the case summary below is based on)

The European Court of Human Rights is to give the UK a deadline of six months in order to allow prisoners to vote in elections, or it could face significant consequences.

The warning came by way of the judgment in a new case concerning the continued failure to amend the legislation imposing a blanket ban on voting in national and European elections for convicted prisoners in detention in the United Kingdom. The court, following its own five-year-old decision in Hirst No . 2, found a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) to the European Convention on Human Rights but no violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention.

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Prisoners to vote in next general election, end of 5 year wait since Euro decision

1 November 2010 by

Updated | According to the Daily Telegraph, the prime minister has conceded that the government has no choice but to comply with a five-year-old European Court of Human Rights judgment and grant prisoners voting rights in the next general election.

The Telegraph reports:

on Wednesday a representative for the Coalition will tell the Court of Appeal that the law will be changed following legal advice that the taxpayer could have to pay tens of millions of pounds in compensation.

The decision, which brings to an end six years of government attempts to avoid the issue, opens the possibility that even those facing life sentences for very serious crimes could in future shape Britain’s elections.

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Council of Europe raps UK on prisoner voting [updated]

9 June 2010 by

The Council of Europe has expressed “profound regret” that the UK has failed to implement its 5-year-old European Court of Human Rights ruling against the policy which prevents prisoners from voting in elections.

In a Committee of Ministers decision, the Council, which monitors compliance with European Court rulings, has:

expressed profound regret that despite the repeated calls of the Committee, the United Kingdom general election was held on 6 May 2010 with the blanket ban on the right of convicted prisoners in custody to vote still in place

It also appears to be giving the new Government a chance, expressing

confidence that the new United Kingdom government will adopt general measures to implement the judgment ahead of elections scheduled for 2011 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and thereby also prevent further, repetitive applications to the European Court;

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