Friday, 11 February 2011

Voting rights for prisoners.

You can judge the values of a country by the way it treats its prisoners.

You need to consider why we put people in jail in the first place. For those who have committed heinous crime such as murder, we put them in prison because not doing so would put the public at risk.

And we only release them when they have atoned for their crimes. There are some murders so horrendous, that the person who committed them may never be released.

For others it is a sanction that courts impose. Sadly for some it is seen as badge of honour, and more depressingly for some it is a safety net when life outside in the real world becomes to real.

So where does voting rights for prisoners fit into all of this?

The European Court has ruled that the blanket ban on denying all prisoners the right to a vote does not comply with the requirements of the Human Rights Act. They have said though that Parliament is the place to decide whom is denied the vote if they are sent to prison.

'Votes for prisoners' - the last thing on the mind of the criminal when doing the crime, the last thing a farther would mention when trying to talk his son out of crime “Don’t do it son, you do realise you’ll loose your voting rights”.

For politicians of all political parties though its one of those difficult questions. After all they have been asked to give voting rights to people whom because they don’t have voting rights may not have elected them in the first place, and all parties want to be seen as being tough on the causes of crime.

A good thing then that we have the common sense voice of the Kenneth Clarke MP; Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice; and I agree with him we cant refuse to comply with a judgement passed down from a Court set up by a convention, this country was crucial in its creation in the first place.

In essence this is all about citizenship, and the basic rights that should be given to a citizen of a country...

...And of the most basic human rights of a citizen should be the right to a vote.

Now sometimes a person may carry out such a heinous crime that they will forfeit their rights, the right to vote being one of them.

It makes sense that Parliament decides what we define as heinous crimes, but quite clearly a blanket ban is wrong.

Sadly it seems the majority of MP’s have chosen the easy route on this one, but they need to realise that the decisions they take are far more important than headlines in the red tops.

Because for one thing we can’t lecture the world on human rights, if we ourselves have been found guilty of denying some prisoners the very basic human rights they should be entitled to.


Anonymous said...

"Those who break the law shouldn't make the law" Surely by this logic if the government breaks EU law our MEPs should not be allowed to continue in the European Parliament.

PrometheusW said...

Well said AT & Anon

I fear this is another ill thought out media pleaser that will be overturned at great expense by the law courts, as several other recent government policies have been.

Something that has escaped mention is that women are more likely than men to go jail for petty offences, (non-payment of fines or no TV licence), while many of the more anti-social offences are dealt with by suspended sentences or community service orders, (as it tends to be the persistent offenders who go to jail for these offences) - the point being that people who receive these sentences have been found guilty (eg - they are criminals just as much as those in prison).

So does this mean that people who have current suspended sentence or who are serving out a community service order will be banned from voting too?

As for ignoring the EU Human Rights Act - What club allows you to join if you just decide to ignore the club rules whenever it suits you - I can't see anyone being let off a speeding fine because they unilaterally decided it didn't apply to them.