Monday, 22 March 2010


Apparently a bit of the ECHR binding upon us in International Law but not incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998 gives prisoners the right to vote.  So said the European Court of Human Rights on 6th October 2005 - see here. We were a bit French about the whole thing and ignored the judgment.  This had led to the Council of Europe getting a bit huffy with us and its Committee of Ministers' Deputies (Ambassadors) has issued the following condemnation of our behaviour (text below).  Apparently they want prisoners to have votes by the next general election.

The Deputies,

1. recalled that in the present judgment, delivered on 6 October 2005, the Court found that the general, automatic and indiscriminate restriction on the right of convicted prisoners in custody to vote, fell outside any acceptable margin of appreciation and was incompatible with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention;
2. recalled further that at the last DH meeting in December 2009, the Committee of Ministers adopted Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2009)160, in which it expressed serious concern that the substantial delay in implementing the judgment has given rise to a significant risk that the next United Kingdom general election, which must take place by June 2010, will be performed in a way that fails to comply with the Convention, and urged the respondent state to rapidly adopt measures to implement the judgment;
3. noted that notwithstanding the Grand Chamber’s judgment in 2005, a declaration of incompatibility with the Convention under the Human Rights Act 1998 by the highest civil appeal court in Scotland1 and the large number of persons affected, the said automatic and indiscriminate restriction remains in force;
4. reiterated their serious concern that a failure to implement the Court’s judgment before the general election and the increasing number of persons potentially affected by the restriction could result in similar violations affecting a significant category of persons, giving rise to a substantial risk of repetitive applications to the European Court;
5. strongly urged the authorities to rapidly adopt measures, of even an interim nature, to ensure the execution of the Court’s judgment before the forthcoming general election;
6. decided to resume consideration of this item at their 1086th meeting (June 2010) (DH) in the light of further information to be provided by the authorities on general measures.

Fat Chance I would say.  This is what the Govt said in Jan 2009 (below) and the second stage of consultation ended on 29/9/09 without no further response in sight.  Doesn't the Council of Europe know that giving votes to prisoners will not actually win votes from law abiding citizens.  Still I suppose we can't take voting rights from these amusing lunatics (the video is hilarious - but why didn't the Police just drag them out given the obvious contempt in the face of the Court?)  - see The Magistrate Blog for more details.

The Government remains committed to taking appropriate steps in respect of the judgement in Hirst, and to carrying out a second, more detailed, public consultation that takes account of the findings of the first stage consultation. The Government acknowledges that there has been a delay to the timetable originally envisaged for the conduct of that second consultation. The current intention is that the results of the first consultation will be published together with a second stage consultation document. Since the judgment, the Government has kept the Committee of Ministers updated, including a detailed note in April of last year. A further brief update noting the Government’s position was submitted in October ahead of the December meeting of the Committee of Ministers’ Deputies. We will continue to keep the Committee of Ministers updated on our progress on this case, and have undertaken to submit further information in due course on the form and timing of a further consultation. In implementing the judgment, the Government will need to take account of the wide spectrum of opinion on the issue, as well as the practical implications for the courts, for prison authorities and for the conduct of elections. The solution that we reach must respect the Court’s judgment, and must also respect the traditions and context of the United Kingdom. As noted in the April update, the Government will consider the outcome of the consultation and will bring forward legislation to implement its final approach as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

1 comment:

  1. Protocol 1, Art 3 has been incorporated.

    The issue is, presumably, that the courts can't read the appropriate provision down into compatibility.