The Ministry of Justice has just published the Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Draft Bill as a Command Paper. As widely predicted, it has three options:
- to maintain the current ban on any convicted prisoner voting;
- to allow prisoners sentenced to less than 6 months to vote; or
- to allow prisoners sentenced to less than 4 years to vote.
Whether or not this will satisfy the ECtHR remains to be seen. Over at UKHRB Adam Wagner thinks not; and for what it’s worth (which, if I’m honest, is not a lot) I rather agree with him.
As I have observed before, this should be just as much a source of disquiet for those who are concerned with religion, human rights and Article 9 as for those who are concerned about the right to vote under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1. Adherence to the terms of the ECHR is not pick-and-choose: as the Attorney said himself in his recent appearance before the House of Commons Justice Committee:
“Inevitably, if we were to be in default of a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, while clearly there would be some people who could put forward logical arguments as to why we should be, equally I have absolutely no doubt that it would be seen by other countries as a move away from our strict adherence to human rights norms.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself.