Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Voting rights for prisoners.

On Monday the European Human Rights Court in the judgment  Scoppola v. Italy said that the UK blanket ban on prisoners having a vote was illegal.

A detailed analysis of this judgment can be found in the  Head of Legal Blog.

The judgment in summary says that a blanket ban on all prisoners having voting rights is contrary to human rights legislation, but that Parliament can still decide which crimes would result in the prisoner losing their voting rights. For example say all prisoners who have been sentenced for more than 4 years.

I did post on this subject last year - Voting rights for prisoners.

In my humble opinion a fundamental human right is the right to vote and to participate in the democratic process, which before someone looses such rights they need to have committed a serious crime.

Of course, whilst Parliament can decide what level of sentence would be serious enough for someone to loose their fundamental right to vote, quite clearly it should be for the courts to decide whether such decisions infringe the fundamental human rights of us all, be that national or international law.

Sir Winston Churchill recongnised this fact when back in 1949 he was a founder member of the Council of Europe, which in 1950 agreed the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The UK was one of the original countries to sign, with the convention coming into force in the UK in September 1953. The European Court of Human Rights was part of the convention.

I have posted on this subject before - A bit more Abu Qatada & human rights.

How times have changed, and I was sad to read that the current Prime Minister; with it seems an eye on headlines in the tabloid press, on Wednesday and as reported by  BBC News [...] told MPs he will resist a European court ruling that prisoners should be given the right to vote in UK elections. David Cameron said the ban on voting from jail "should be a matter for Parliament... and not a foreign court".'

We can't really decide to ignore rulings from an internationally recongnised court; of which we were a founding member, and expect others to comply, especially on fundamental human rights, nor in doing so should we lecture others on the need to comply either.

We have six months to grow up and amend our laws.


The Red Flag said...

I don't see the point in all of this.

I doubt veru much whether that many prisoners would bother voting. In fact I doubt very much whether that many voted when they were free.

So what if they have the vote - plenty of other European countres allow them the vote - including Ireland and plenty of other countries outsode europe do as well including Canada and Australia.

It seems to me that this is very much an issue that triggers a response only from Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph readers - that sort of person.

Anonymous said...

Thank you once again for reminding us all of the history of the human rights issues in post-war Britain.

As you mention, it was Churchill who was one of the chief architects and founding fathers of the Council of Europe and the Court of Human Rights. It is high time that modern-day Conservatives, and their fellow travellers in UKIP, the BNP, and the National Front took time out from reading the Mail & Express, and started to read something a bit more substantial.

Human rights, according to Churchill, are a fundamental corner stone of our British democratic way of life. They are not issues that have been foisted or forced upon us by awful foreigners.

Tories - read your history books! i.e. the books that deal with life before Margaret Hilda Thatcher.


Anonymous said...

The British also founded colonialism, slavery and concentration camps. According to your argument, do we have to support these too?

Anonymous said...

You are quite correct - the above mentioned evils were also closely associated with the British Empire.

No - the point I was trying to make is that present day Xenophobic Tories + their fellow travellers, believe that all modern problem eg, The double-dip recession, 'Unbridled Immigration', Terrorism, Decline of Law + Order,decline of family values, plus of course the Human Rights issue,are all caused by nasty, lazy, corrupt foreigners ( usually connected to the EU).

But as we have seen, some of these issues, such as Human Rights Legislation and indeed European Unity, were in fact at one time, good sound Tory policies.


The Red Flag said...

Verse from Power In The Darkness (Tom Robinson Band, 1978). It was written as Thatcher's vision of conservatism was on the rise, prior to them winning the following year.

"Today, institutions fundamental to the British system of Government are under attack: the public schools, the house of Lords, the Church of England, the holy institution of Marriage, even our magnificent police force are no longer safe from those who would undermine our society, and it's about time we said 'enough is enough' and saw a return to the traditional British values of discipline, obedience, morality and freedom.
What we want is:

Freedom from the reds and the blacks and the criminals
Prostitutes, pansies and punks
Football hooligans, juvenile delinquents
Lesbians and left wing scum
Freedom from the niggers and the Pakis and the unions
Freedom from the Gipsies and the Jews
Freedom from leftwing layabouts and liberals
Freedom from the likes of you..."