One of New Zealand’s longest-serving prisoners has lost an appeal to allow inmates to vote behind bars. Arthur William Taylor, who has spent about 40 years of his life in prison, and prisoners Hinemanu Ngaronoa and Sandra Wilde – brought their cases to the Court of Appeal, arguing it was discriminatory to ban prisoners from voting. The case was originally taken in 2013 by Taylor – a self-described “jailhouse lawyer”. He also sought and won a “declaration of inconsistency” in the High Court, saying a broad-sweeping ban on prisoners’ voting was an unjustified limitation on the right to vote. That decision was upheld on appeal this year, but does not mean Parliament must repeal the ban.
A 2010 law extended a ban on prisoners voting to cover all prisoners. Previously it only applied to those jailed for more than three years.
However, the Court of Appeal today dismissed Taylor, Ngaronoa and Wilde’s two appeals, in which they argued the 2010 ban was inconsistent with rules laid out in the Bill of Rights – and in particular that is was discriminatory towards Maori, who are disproportionately represented in prison.
The Court of Appeal judges said Maori and non-Maori prisoners were “treated the same way”.