Wednesday’s ruling by the UK Supreme Court about the voting entitlement of prisoners in the European Elections will be welcome.
As is well-known, the European Court of Human Rights has said that the UK is in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights by having a blanket ban on prisoners voting. Wednesday’s case was about whether EU law required that prisoners could vote in the Euro-elections and the Court said ‘No’ in a unanimous decision. This was a triumph for our Attorney General, who had argued the case personally. The Prime Minister tweeted that the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the latest legal challenge “was a victory for common sense.”
Prisoners with long sentences have never been able to vote in the UK, but until 1967 prisoners serving prison sentences for “misdemeanours” did vote. But since then, it is mainly prisoners awaiting trial who have been allowed to vote. The Supreme Court also said on Wednesday that even if a blanket ban on prisoners voting was removed, it would not be replaced by a law enabling very long-term prisoners to vote. This reflects our history and a measure currently before parliament.
There is a draft Bill with options being considered in Committee by Parliament. The three options being considered are continuing with a blanket ban, allowing voting for those sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment or less and allowing voting for prisoners with 4 years imprisonment or less. We will have to see what are the Committee’s views in due course.
There is still a judgment to answer with Strasbourg as my colleague Dominic Raab pointed out in Wednesday’s PMQs but I think for the meantime the decision of the Supreme Court is wise and welcome. Nobody would have wanted to see lifers voting in next summer’s elections.