Last week’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on prisoners’ voting reinforces previous judgments of the Court that the UK’s blanket ban on sentenced prisoners voting is unlawful. But with three months to go before the UK general election, it’s clear that the government would rather flout human rights law, ignore the advice of prison governors, bishops to, and inspectors of, prisons and take up Parliamentary time and taxpayers’ money in order to stop sentenced prisoners from acting responsibly by voting in democratic elections. For ten years now successive UK governments have wasted public money resisting the European Court’s judgment. The current Prime Minister has even admitted to feeling “physically ill to even contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison”.
Even the modest proposals for reform made by the cross-party committee set up by the government to consider the draft bill on prisoners voting have fallen on deaf ears. It recommended that those serving prison sentences of 12 months or less should maintain their voting rights and others serving longer sentences should have these re-instated six months before release.
Since the committee’s report in January 2014, there have been local and European elections in May 2014 and a referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014, all held without any moves by the government to overturn the ban. The May 2015 general election looks set to go ahead with the blanket ban still in place.