23 May 2012
In an important decision, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has today confirmed that the UK Government’s continuing blanket ban on allowing prisoners the right to vote was unlawful and that it now had six months in which to introduce the necessary legislative proposals to rectify the situation.
The judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Scoppola –v- Italy (No.3) ruled that individual states must allow for at least some prisoners to vote, although they have a wide discretion in relation to deciding which prisoners.
In the judgment, the Court rejected arguments specifically put forward by the UK Government, which had taken the unusual step of intervening in the case concerning another state as a third party, that the Court’s earlier decision of October 2005 in Hirst –v- UK (No 2), was wrong. In this earlier judgment, the Court found that the UK’s blanket ban on allowing prisoners the right to vote was unlawful.
Rather, in today’s judgment, the Court states:
“In its observations, the third-party intervener affirmed that the Grand Chamber’s findings in Hirst (No.2) were wrong and asked the Court to revisit the judgment. It argued in particular that whether or not to deprive a group of people – convicted prisoners serving sentences – of the right to vote fell within the margin of appreciation afforded to the member State in the matter.
“It does not appear, however, that anything has occurred or changed at the European or Convention levels since the Hirst (No.2) judgment that might lend support to the suggestion that the principles set for the in that case should be re-examined. On the contrary, analysis of the relevant international and European documents and comparative law information reveals the opposite trend, if anything – towards fewer restrictions on convicted prisoners’ voting rights
“The Court accordingly reaffirms the principles set out by the Grand Chamber in the Hirst judgment, in particular the fact that when disenfranchisement affects a group of people generally, automatically and indiscriminately, based solely on the fact that they are serving a prison sentence, irrespective of the length of the sentence and irrespective of the nature or gravity of their offence and their individual circumstances, it is not compatible with Article 3 of Protocol 1 [of the European convention on Human rights].”
Leigh Day & Co is currently acting for over 550 applications prisoners in applications to the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the UK Government’s failure to allow them to vote in the May 2010 general election and subsequent elections.
, a partner in the Human Rights Department
of Leigh Day & Co stated:
“In its latest judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed again that the UK’s continuing blanket ban on prisoner voting is unlawful. The UK Government must now come forward with the necessary legislative proposals to rectify the continuing breach. Continuing inaction is likely to leave the UK further exposed to claims for compensation by serving prisoners.”
For further information, please contact Sean Humber
or Benjamin Burrows
on 020 7650 1200
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