HMG and votes for prisoners: maybe not such a cunning plan

As readers of this blog will be aware, in an attempt to comply with the judgments of the ECtHR on prisoners’ voting rights in Hirst v United Kingdom (No. 2) 74025/01 [2005] ECHR 681 (6 October 2005) and Scoppola v Italy (No. 3) 126/05 [2012] ECHR 868 (22 May 2012) last month the Government published a draft bill that put forward three options for MPs:

  • to give the vote to prisoners serving less than six months;
  • to give the vote to those serving less than four years; or
  • to maintain the current blanket ban.

The draft will be considered by a committee of MPs that will make recommendations to the Government – but the current expectation is that when the matter is put to the vote the House will once more vote to maintain the blanket ban.

The BBC now reports that the Council of Europe has told the United Kingdom that it cannot include a blanket ban on prisoner voting as an option when it puts a bill before MPs on the grounds that the blanket restriction criticised by the Court could not be considered compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Guardian quotes Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, as expressing concern that the issue is being mired in the more general disenchantment in some quarters with European integration:

“I’m concerned that the domestic debate against more political integration in the European Union is confused with the broader aim of human rights. The UK has been a leader in human rights and I urge it to continue in this tradition.”

We have little more to add, except to point out that today is Human Rights Day, which marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 – and to reiterate our conviction that human rights are indivisible.

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