In October, the government announced proposals to amend the current total ban on serving convicted prisoners voting, which has repeatedly found to breach inmates’ human rights. Yesterday, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the body responsible for supervising the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, welcomed the UK Government’s proposed change of policy.
The new government proposals will allow some prisoners released on temporary licence (for example to allow them to work outside prison) to vote and also confirms that those released on Home Detention Curfew are able to vote. The change is only estimated to affect up to 100 offenders at any one time.
Sean Humber, head of the human rights department at law firm Leigh Day, who has acted for hundreds of prisoners in successful claims to the European Court of Human Rights over the last decade in which the court repeatedly found that the UK’s current ban on prisoner voting breaches their human rights, stated:
“The Government’s proposals go against their previously very vocal opposition to any convicted serving prisoner being able to vote and this climb down is to be welcomed. I can only hope that the health of the former Prime Minister, who said that the idea of any prisoner being given the vote made him feel physically sick, is now being closely monitored.
“However, having now conceded the principle, it is extremely disappointing that the specific proposals, if implemented, are only likely to allow a very small number of prisoners to actually vote.
“Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide whether the Government’s very modest proposals go far enough. I am doubtful and consider it almost inevitable that there will be further legal challenges brought by prisoners who remain unable to vote in future elections arguing that this represents a continuing breach of their human rights.”