The ruling is a victory for career criminal Arthur Taylor, who has been fighting to give prisoners the right to vote since a 2010 law took it away from all inmates, no matter how long their sentence. At the time the legislation was being considered, the Attorney-General warned Parliament that a blanket ban contravened the Bill of Rights, but the law was passed anyway. Now Justice Heath has made a formal declaration that the law is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and is unjustified. Under New Zealand law, Parliament can pass legislation that is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights if there are justifiable grounds for doing so. However, Justice Heath found that the law was full of inconsistencies and would lead to arbitrary outcomes.
One example he gave was home detention, where the person would keep their right to vote, whereas a person sentenced to the same amount of time in prison would be disenfranchised.
Voting was one of the most fundamental aspects of a democracy, Justice Heath said.
“The purpose of a formal declaration is to draw to the attention of the New Zealand public that Parliament has enacted legislation inconsistent with a fundamental right.”