Despite a European Court ruling and a warning from Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, prisoners in the UK will not be given the right to vote, according to Prime Minister David Cameron, who said yesterday that prisoners would never get the vote under his Government.
Mr Grieve had told a parliamentary committee before Prime Minister’s questions, when Mr Cameron spoke on the subject, that Britain could be thrown out of the Council of Europe and be subject to large compensation claims if it ignored a European court of human rights (ECHR) ruling that prisoners should be allowed to vote.
However, the Prime Minister pointed out that in February last year the House called by an overwhelming margin of 234 to 22 for the blanket ban to be maintained rather than fall in line with the ECHR judgment.
The ECHR first ruled in 2005 that it was a breach of human rights to deny prisoners the vote, although there is room for negotiation, as it is a blanket ban they find illegal, not certain prisoners being denied the vote.
In May 2012 the court gave the UK six months to outline how it proposes to change the law on voting for prisoners and the Government is negotiating with the court, with Mr Grieve urging “flexibility” over the action needed.
Mr Grieve told MPs on the Commons Justice Committee that the UK had a legal duty to implement the judgements of international bodies it had joined and that this was also set out in the Ministerial Code.
He went on to warn that if Parliament voted to keep a blanket ban on prisoners voting, the government would be liable to pay damages to those affected, which would be costly, unless it chose not to pay, which would be a further breach of the obligations.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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