Some British MPs are outraged by a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that prisoners must be given the right to vote in political elections. The Court supported a prior ruling that a blanket prohibition on inmates in England and Wales voting was unlawful. British prisoners have been barred from voting for 140 years. However, the court suggested that the British government could have the right to extend voting rights only to certain prisoners, that is, by withholding enfranchisement to the worst criminals, including murderers and rapists. London now has six months to comply with the court’s ruling, or face the risk of court challenges and incurring large legal costs, including possibly paying compensation to 2,500 prisoners who have filed suit to overturn the ban. However, UK MPs, who last year overwhelmingly voted to continue the prohibition on prisoners voting, may be irked by European court dictating policy to them.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said in the past that the thought of inmates voting made him “physically ill… They should lose some rights, including the right to vote.” The case stretches back eight years to when John Hirst, a convicted killer, filed suit to protest his inability to vote. David Davis, a Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, condemned the Court‘s ruling as an infringement on the rights of Britain’s parliament’s “to decide on matters which are fundamental to the British way of life and which are not appropriate to judicial intervention.” Davis added: “This will inevitably lead to a clash between the express wishes of the UK Parliament and the assertions of the European Court and will not help the court achieve its important functions in stopping breaches of fundamental rights throughout Europe.”