One of our consultants was on Sky News last week , discussing the issue of prisoners’ voting rights.
Under UK law prisoners serving a custodial sentence do not have the right to vote. Why should they? runs the argument. They have committed offences, and in some cases the offences were serious. It would be an insult to their victims.
The European Court heard all these arguments, for and against, back in 2005. They decided that the UK ban contravened Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Last week was the latest, and probably last, episode in the saga; the European Court decided that prisoners deprived of the vote should not be able to claim damages against the UK Government. It made that decision whilst noting, in its words, “the continuing violation” of human rights law by the UK Government.
It was that decision which prompted Sky news to seek our views on the original ban.
The truth is that successive Governments have mismanaged this. There would have been minimal objection if certain categories of prisoners had had their right to vote removed or suspended, with the vast majority of prisoners left entitled to vote if they so wished. Hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees would have been saved . The Government would not have lost face.
In Germany, and quite a few other countries, prisoners are actually encouraged to vote. It is seen as part of their rehabilitation. It is seen as encouraging prisoners to feel like members of society. It is seen as encouraging a more mature outlook. It is believed that it for the common good. It is believed that, however modestly, it may help to prevent re-offending by way of reintergration.