The UK government is reportedly to scrap its blanket ban on prisoners being allowed to vote, 12 years after the European court of human rights ruled that it was unlawful. Britain has ignored a series of judgments by European courts since 2005, maintaining that it is a matter for parliament to decide. But the government is planning to end its long-running defiance by allowing prisoners serving a sentence of less than a year who are let out on day release to be allowed to go home to vote, according to the Sunday Times. The newspaper said the decision had been made by David Lidington, the justice secretary, who circulated plans to ministers last week. The paper said it would affect hundreds of prisoners and quoted a senior government source as saying: “This will only apply to a small number of people who remain on the electoral roll and are let out on day release. These are not murderers and rapists but prisoners who are serving less than a year who remain on the electoral roll. No one will be allowed to register to vote if they are still behind bars.”
Responding to the report, the Ministry of Justice’s statement left open the possibility of prisoners on day release being allowed to vote.
A spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on speculation. Our policy on prisoner voting is well established: it remains a matter for the UK to determine, and offenders in prison cannot vote.”
Any weakening of the blanket ban is likely to leave many MPs dismayed. When the government proposed legislation to restrict the voting ban in 2011 MPs voted overwhelmingly by 234 to 22 in favour of a cross-party motion that said parliament should decide on such an important issue.