The European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled that prisoners who have not been allowed to vote should not be paid compensation. However, in a ruling that will stoke anger within the Conservative party, the court on Tuesday upheld its earlier ruling that the prisoners’ human rights were breached when they were not allowed to vote. The case concerns 10 men serving sentences in Scottish prisons – some of whom are convicted sex offenders – who claimed their human rights were breached when they were not allowed to vote in the European elections in 2009. Had the court ruled that the men were entitled to compensation, the government would have had to make payouts in hundreds of similar cases. In its decision on Tuesday, the court unanimously said that its finding that the prisoners’ rights had been violated was sufficient. “The finding of a violation constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicant,” it said.
In such circumstances, the court ruled that “the legal costs claimed by the present applicants cannot be regarded as reasonably and necessarily incurred. The court therefore declines to make any award in respect of legal costs.”
In 2004 the ECHR said a blanket ban on prisoners voting was unlawful. But successive UK governments have refused to comply with the ruling. Last December, David Cameron reiterated his strong opposition to the ECHR decision, saying that prisoners “damn well shouldn’t” be given the right to vote as he called for the powers of the court to be restricted.