Of course, we keep whole cities from having the right to vote
The government faces being hauled before the European court of human rights unless it gives prisoners the right to vote as a matter of urgency.
The revelation comes as several law firms seek to launch claims on behalf of thousands of UK prisoners who are demanding compensation – estimated to be as much as £750 each – on the grounds they were illegally denied the right to vote at the last general election…
In March 2004, the ECHR ruled in Hirst v UK that the government’s blanket ban barring sentenced prisoners from voting was unlawful. But despite the ruling, the previous government continued to consult on the issue and failed to make it law.
The committee of ministers, the body that oversees European member states’ compliance with ECHR judgments, is to meet this week to discuss the UK’s failure to enfranchise prisoners following the ruling.
The committee will then issue a stark public reminder to the government that it must comply with the ruling immediately. If it refuses, the committee has the power to refer the question of whether the government has failed in its obligations to the ECHR, a move that would put Westminster on a collision course with the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.
The clash would represent the culmination of months of mounting frustration on the part of the committee. In March it warned the UK must “rapidly adopt measures, of even an interim nature, to ensure the execution of the court’s judgment before the forthcoming general election”, otherwise the nationwide vote would be illegal…
Penal reformers say giving prisoners the vote is about restoring a fundamental human right that will confer a sense of responsibility and aid their rehabilitation.
They point out that the UK is out of step with many other countries. Eighteen European countries have no restrictions on prisoners voting while in France and Germany a decision to disenfranchise a prisoner is left to the courts.
One of those moments of clarity that makes me pleased the United States needn’t follow the rulings of European politicians. And the ECHR is after all more of a political court than one concerned with constitutional and historic law.
Here in the States, serving a year-and-a-day is sufficient for disfranchising someone. Whether that needs to be varied or not would be a task for the sort of review that Euros seem to approach from the opposite direction. It is suggested that it would be beneficial in reducing recidivism – therefore it must be done. I’d rather see a bit of study on the subject, a stretch of practice and evaluation.
Though, the Brits dithering around under the leadership of Blair and Brown is no surprise. Democracy might have accidentally entered into the political equation.