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Prisoner voting rights - is Parliament missing the point? - Prof Jackie Hodgson

Professor Jackie Hodgson, Director of the University of Warwick’s Criminal Justice Centre at the School of Law, said: “Once again the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that a complete ban on prisoner voting rights is incompatible with the UK’s commitment to the First Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights.

“Whether or not prisoners should enjoy the right to vote is a controversial subject in many democracies but perhaps none more so than in the UK. The issue pits the civil and political rights of some of the most unpopular citizens within society against the strong desire of Parliament to restrict and to limit those rights.

“The reason why the UK position has been deemed unacceptable is because it applies to all convicted prisoners irrespective of the nature of the offence committed or the length of the jail term imposed – the ECtHR has held this to be arbitrary and disproportionate.

“But the focus on the appropriate cut off assumes that some prisoner disenfranchisement is justified and this seems to be the wrong way around – the real and logically prior question is why prisoners should be disenfranchised in the first place?

“Neither Parliament or the ECtHR has paid much attention to this critical question. They should both more seriously consider the view of the Supreme Court of Canada – that prison disenfranchisement cannot rationally be said to enhance our respect for the rule of law or to impose appropriate punishment on offenders.

“Politicians of all political hue have opposed reform and criticised the Court for overstepping the mark. Despite the recommendations of a Joint Committee of the House of Commons and the Lords, the government have stalled taking action until the Autumn of 2015, claiming to be 'actively considering' the most effective way to implement the Court's judgment in Hirst, the original decision in which the UK position was condemned a decade ago.”

Note to Editors:

Issued by Lee Page, Communications Manager, Press and Policy Office, The University of Warwick. Tel: +44 (0)2476 574 255, Mob: +44 (0)7920 531 221. Email: l.page@warwick.ac.uk.

 

Contacts:

Professor Jackie Hodgson

+44 (0)7815 524 786

jackie.hodgson@warwick.ac.uk

Lee Page, Communications Manager

+44 (0)2476 574 255

+44 (0)7920 531 221

l.page@warwick.ac.uk