In the Media

Prisoners could get the vote after European judgment

PUBLISHED December 15, 2006

Convicted prisoners would be allowed to vote in elections for the first time under proposals outlined by the Government yesterday.

Under the existing law, the Representation of the People Act 1983, all prisoners are barred from voting in parliamentary and local elections unless they are being held on remand. 
But the Government has been forced to review the arrangements after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that a blanket ban breached prisoners? human rights The judgment was passed in the case of an inmate, John Hirst, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1980 after he admitted the manslaughter of his landlady on the ground of diminished responsibility.

He was released on licence in May last year but was barred from voting.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, said that the Government still backed the ban, but was obliged to review it.

Launching a period of public consultation, he said: ?The right to vote is considered by many to be a privilege as well as an entitlement, and that persons who are convicted of an offence serious enough to warrant a term in prison have cast aside that privilege and entitlement for the duration of their sentence.?

Lord Falconer emphasised that entitling all prisoners to vote was not an option. But he added: ?We do need to reconsider the basic principles of our position and seek views on various possible options for change.?