Judges to rule on prisoner voting

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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European judges are set to rule on whether the rights of 1,015 serving prisoners in the UK were breached when they were prevented from voting in elections.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is due to announce its judgment regarding applications brought by people who were in jail throughout various elections between 2009 and 2011.

The ruling will group together all of the long-standing prisoner voting cases against the UK that have been pending before the court.

In August last year the ECHR ruled that the rights of 10 prisoners had been violated in relation to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights – right to a free election.

Judges said they reached the conclusion as the case was identical to another prisoner voting case in the UK, in which the blanket ban was deemed a breach.

The court rejected the applicants’ claim for compensation and legal costs, after an earlier judgment made it clear that it was unlikely to award even expenses in such cases.

In September 2014, the Council of Europe’s Committee “noted with profound concern and disappointment that the United Kingdom authorities did not introduce a bill to parliament at the start of its 2014-2015 session as recommended by the competent parliamentary committee”.

It urged the United Kingdom authorities to introduce such a bill as soon as possible, and will come back to the issue later this year.

Sean Humber from law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for 554 clients who were imprisoned at the time of the May 2010 general election, said: “Despite the European Court of Human Rights having first ruled that the UK Government’s blanket ban on allowing prisoner voting was unlawful a decade ago, and confirming the unlawfulness of this blanket ban in a succession of further judgments ever since, the Government stubbornly refuses to act.

“We hope that in this judgment the European Court of Human Rights will confirm that the blanket ban on prisoner voting is unlawful and, given the Government’s stubborn refusal to act, will award our clients compensation for breaching their rights.

“We are in a position where the Government appears to take a perverse pleasure in unlawfully breaching the human rights of thousands of its citizens. It should be extremely worrying to all of us that the Government seems to have so little regard for its international human rights obligations or the rule of law.”

Ukip MEP Diane James, the party’s home affairs spokeswoman, said: “There is no appetite among the general public for prisoners to get the vote. David Cameron has promised over and again to defy the European Court of Human Rights.

“Let’s just see once they have made their ruling on UK prisoner votes whether he holds fast to this pledge. His track record on promise keeping, especially when it comes to Europe, is hardly very good.”

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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