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Oh no "EU" don't! Parliament "refuses" to give prisoners the vote!


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Day we stood up to Europe: In an unprecedented move, MPs reject European court's ruling that prisoners must get the vote



By James Chapman

Last updated at 12:48 AM on 11th February 2011




MPs mounted an historic defence of Britain’s sovereign right to make its own decisions last night by defying demands from the European courts to hand prisoners the vote.

They voted overwhelmingly to maintain a 140-year-old ban on convicts ­taking part in elections because, they said, those who commit a crime have ‘broken their contract with society’.

The decisive stance plunged Parliament into an unprecedented stand-off against the European Court of Human Rights.


article-1355640-0D1EC942000005DC-327_634x366.jpg No right to vote: David Davis said prisoners had broken their contract with society and should not be allowed the same rights as ordinary citizens






Challenging Europe: Alan Johnson and Jack Straw were in Parliament this afternoon to take part in the controversial debate



After six hours of impassioned debate, MPs voted by 234 to 22 – a majority of 212 – to defy a ruling from the ECHR that the ban must be overturned.

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers lined up to insist that after decades of toeing the line, the time has come for Britain to tell unelected Strasbourg judges that they have overstepped their authority.

Experts said the vote left Britain’s relationship with the European court in ‘uncharted territory’. It places the Prime Minister under intense pressure to launch a defining challenge against Strasbourg.

Proposing the cross-party motion which ­‘supports the current situation in which no prisoner is able to vote’, former Tory shadow home secretary David Davis said: ‘The ­general point is very clear in this country: that is that it takes a pretty serious crime to get yourself sent to prison.






‘And as a result you have broken the contract with society to such a serious extent that you have lost all of those rights: your that you have lost all of those rights: your liberty and your right to vote.’

And Dominic Raab, Tory MP for Esher and Walton, who also initiated last night’s debate, said: ‘It is time to draw a line in the sand. It’s time we send a very clear message: this House will decide whether prisoners get the vote, this House will decide the laws of the land.’

Last night’s majority came on a good turnout for a backbench motion heard on a Thursday afternoon, when many of the House’s 649 MPs are traditionally heading for their constituencies.


article-1355640-0D146E15000005DC-170_634x380.jpg Undermining our Parliament: The European 'Court' has judges from tiny European states that are able to rule on matters that affect the UK


Also, around 100 Government ministers and frontbenchers from the main parties had been instructed to abstain. Amid signs of confusion on the Labour benches about how to respond, just 69 of its MPs – little over a quarter – bothered to vote.

David Cameron agreed last night that ­convicts should not be allowed to take part in elections.

Speaking on a visit to a Honda factory near Swindon, the Prime Minister said: ‘I just think that if you are sent to prison and you have committed a crime then you give up the right to be able to vote. I don’t see why we should have to change that. But I’m the Prime Minister, we’re in a situation where the courts are telling us we are going to be fined unless we change this. I find it ­thoroughly unsatisfactory.’



Britain's Parliament, for too long supine in the face of the erosion of its powers and prerogatives by European institutions, has finally struck back.

Only 22 MPs supported the European Court of Human Rights’ insistence that British prisoners should have the vote.

Parliamentarians realised they can support human rights, but oppose the flawed way the human rights court works.

Now David Cameron has a mandate to tell the Strasbourg court that its rulings must take account of democratically elected representatives.

Britain has taken a small but significant step towards regaining control of her destiny.



After last night’s vote, ministers accepted there appeared to be little prospect of persuading MPs to back any relaxation in the ban.

There were signals that ministers intend to go back to the court and argue that Parliament has now expressed an emphatic view.

Government sources suggested a possible solution being examined was handing discretion over the withdrawal of the vote to judges, with firm guidelines that they should do so in most if not all cases.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve insisted that Britain, as a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, would be acting ‘tyrannically’ and in breach of the rule of law if it simply rejected rulings from the court.

But he admitted that there was in fact no mechanism to enforce the court’s will, telling MPs he anticipated a ‘drawn-out dialogue between ourselves and the ECHR’.

Mr Grieve said Parliament had to show why it would be ‘reasonable and proportionate’ to retain the ban, adding: ‘That gives us the best possible chance of winning the challenges which may then occur thereafter.’

In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British ban was discriminatory. It followed a legal challenge by killer John Hirst, who was jailed for axing his landlady to death in 1979.

Labour consulted on changing the law but dragged its feet, given how controversial the issue proved.

But last year the Council of Europe warned the Government that its failure to act could lead to compensation claims.





Challenges: Ex-prisoner John Hirst launched a legal bid after he said being denied the vote breached his human rights, while the Archbishop of Canterbury has entered the row claiming prisoners should be given the vote



Mr Davis, who tabled the motion with former Labour justice secretary Jack Straw, said: ‘Of course it is important that Britain observes its treaty obligations and upholds the rule of law.

‘But in attempting to overrule British law on prisoner voting rights the unelected judges in Strasbourg have exceeded the limits of their authority.’

Mr Straw agreed that the ECHR had ‘set itself up as a supreme court for Europe with an ever-­widening remit’.

Tory MP Priti Patel said: ‘It’s appalling in this day and age that we’re actually talking about the rights of convicted criminals rather than putting the rights of victims first. We’ve got to start saying no to Europe bullying us and dictating to us on issues of this nature.’

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes was one of a handful of voices speaking in favour of allowing prisoners to vote.

Blair Gibbs, of the Policy Exchange think-tank, said: ‘We are now in uncharted territory. The Government should use prisoner votes to reassert its authority over Strasbourg.’

An emphatic message to the European court


Last night’s Commons decision sends an emphatic ­message to the European courts that MPs are not prepared to accept their rulings on votes for prisoners.

It sets the scene for an unprecedented conflict between Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is not used to having its diktats challenged.

Exactly what happens next is unclear and fraught with difficulty for ministers – and David Cameron in particular.


This week he slapped down Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, whose future in the Government is increasingly in question, and encouraged Tory MPs to defy the court.

It now appears all but impossible for the Government to get any compromise measure (extending the vote to a limited number of prisoners, for instance) through the Commons. Last night’s vote is intended to draw a line in the sand in terms of Britain’s relationship with the ECHR.

As a backbench motion, it is not binding on the Government. Instead it serves as a warning that any relaxation of the ban will not command the support of MPs.

An existing Cabinet Office proposal for a ban for only prisoners sentenced to four years or more appears untenable. It would give the vote to 28,770 inmates.

A voting ban on all those sentenced to more than six months – also floated as a compromise – would still benefit 5,532 ­prisoners, and looks doomed, too. Indeed, Government legal advisers are telling ministers any link between a ban and length of sentence could fall foul of the ECHR.

In one case taken by an Austrian prisoner, a blanket ban on those serving more than one year was found to be unlawful. Mr Cameron could, of course, withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, a move which would be cheered by many of his MPs. But it would lead to high-profile resignations from the Government and a possible fracturing of the Coalition.

Government lawyers can attempt to negotiate a compromise with the court, arguing that one of its key objections to the ban – that Parliament had not expressed a view on the issue for ­decades – has now been addressed.

One proposal being examined by Downing Street is simply to defy the European court ruling. It is not clear whether compensation orders made by Strasbourg are enforceable.

Alternatively, compensation awards to inmates could be clawed back through a charge for their prison accommodation.

Prisoners released following miscarriages of justice are routinely charged board and lodging to cover the time they spent in jail. Doing the same for prisoners suing over being deprived the vote would be a neat solution.

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so it means Spain changed that rule after joining EU in the late 80's and society didn't knew it?

i know back in the 60's and so prisioners weren't allowed to vote here either... i don't know how it is now.

i'm not against people rights but when one is sentenced and with huge evidences of certain crimes punishment should be more logical applied in the particular case.

i don't like that change, not that i think the prisioner votes may change a lot the election results but... feels strange that they can vote specially if they are in prision for some crimes related with politics and ecomony.

is like when is allowed to pay a fine to get off prision when the criminal is a scam or so. that option shouldn't be able when one is blamed for using black money, is like legalizing the crime.

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i didn't quite take the time to read the article in full so the answer to my question might already be in there. but is this a ban on anyone serving any sort of sentence in prison? and do they have to be in prison on the date of election to be ineligible?


we had a similar rule enacted back in 2007 but the high court deemed it to be unconstitutional in an instant. simply because it is so illogical. why should someone who is serving a 6 month sentence be disqualified from voting yet someone serving the same sentence is able to vote just cos they were released a few weeks before the election? people serving very lengthy sentences for indictable crimes like rape and murder should be banned but to there could be people in gaol for very simple things like not being able to pay a fine. how is it fair that they shouldn't be able to exercise this basic right.

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Yes, that is what thread is about. EU basically shouted at them 'bitch you can't do that' and UK said back 'bitch yes I can'.


Instead of the EU shouting "Bitch you can't do that" and the UK saying "Okay, I shall roll over, please take some more money"


It's time the UK stands up-to the unaccountable EU (whose accounts hasn't been signed off by the auditors since 2001!)

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