By Claudie Qumsieh
More than 70,000 prisoners are to be given the right to vote. David Cameron has “reluctantly” given in to calls for the UK to comply with EU law. Compensation to disenfranchised prisoners could have cost the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds, legal advisers warned the government.
The government failed to comply with a ruling of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) 5 years ago. Prisoner John Hirst, who killed his landlady with an axe in 1979, took the issue to ECHR which ruled that the law breached the convention and was “disproportionate”
Hirst argues that in a democracy “people can put pressure and lobby in Parliament for changes in the law and improved conditions, but you can’t do that if you havent got the vote…. you’ve got to give them this legitimate channel to bring their issues in”
The UK has historically denied prisoners the right to vote. The principles of the Forfeiture Act 1870 were maintained in the Representation of the People Act in 1983.
As yet it is unknown how this law will be implemented. It is thought that judges will be able to decide on sentencing whether a prisoner will get the right to vote and prisoners convicted of child murder and serial killers will not get the vote. Prisoners who already have the right to vote include those jailed for contempt of court, those awaiting trial, and fine defaulters.
Official confirmation is thought to be announced in a statement to the court of appeal tomorrow.