Denying the vote to a group of prisoners was a breach of human rights, although no compensation or costs should be paid, European judges have ruled. The case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerned 10 prisoners who were unable to vote in elections to the European Parliament on June 4 2009. The ECHR ruled that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – right to a free election. Judges said they reached this conclusion as the case was identical to another prisoner voting case in the UK, in which the blanket ban was deemed a breach. The court rejected the applicants’ claim for compensation and legal costs.
The judges said they had recognised recent steps taken in the UK with the publication of a draft bill and the report of the Joint Committee on Prisoner Voting Rights appointed to examine the bill, which came back with a key recommendation to allow prisoners who were serving 12 months or less to be eligible to vote.
However, as the legislation remained unamended, the Court concluded there had been a violation of the convention.
However, the Government has escaped the prospect of having to make pay-outs in hundreds of similar cases before the ECHR in light of the ruling on compensation and legal costs.