Rows over ruling if prisoners have the right to vote
- 24 Oct
The attorny general of Britain has said that the Government must accept the European ruling that allows prisoners the right to vote.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in 2005 that it was up to individual countries to decide which prisoners should be denied the right to vote from jail, but said a total ban was illegal.
It has been said that the government is planning a draft bill introducing limited rights for inmates to comply with the European court decision, despite receiving strong opposition from some Conservatives.
However, the government so far has denied reports that the coalition was planning to introduce a draft law..
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a blanket ban on voting for anyone sent to jail is illegal, and the government has until the end of November to decide how to react; ministers are likely to leave the controversial announcement until just before this so that it can be made after the police commissioner elections on 17th November.
This is causing friction amongst Conservatives; David Cameron has said it would make him sick to give prisoners the right to vote, but has previously allowed the proposal that prisoners serving a sentence of four years or less should be given the right, some backbench conservatives have refused this idea.
At present, only prisoners on remand are allowed to vote in Britain.
Amongst the rumours, the only statement that Downing Street have made so far is:
If people go to prison, they lose the right to vote. That's our policy.
Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, has told MPs on the justice committee this morning:
The United Kingdom government is adherent to the convention. The convention is one of our international legal obligations. And successive governments, including this one, have always put a great emphasis on the observance of our international legal obligations. We live in a world where international law matters increasingly … We do observe international obligations that are imposed on us.
I have absolutely no doubt it would be seen by other countries as a move away from our strict adherence to human rights laws.
Labour has previously said it would back the prime minister's stance.
Liberal Democrat backbencher Stephen Williams said prisoners serving short sentences should be allowed to vote as part of rehabilitation.
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