Monday, October 29, 2012


Prisoner's Voting Rights Sets Tricky Problem for Cameron

 Chinese prisoners exercise the right to vote                 

Prisoners do not have the right to vote yet according to a ruling of the the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) they should be given such a right. If prisoners do not receive the vote by 22nd November UK will be in breach of the Convention which British lawyers effectively drafted way back in 1950. Several prisoners have begun proceedings against the government and they stand to win substantial sums of money. What to do?

Dave has decided no government he is in charge of will ever introduce such a measure- it is alleged to make him feel 'physically sick', which, surely, is taking things just a little too far. Am I in favour of letting them vote? On balance I think I am. This government has gone on about rehabilitation, closing the revolving door that makes it likely criminals offend soon after they have been let out of the nick. Seems to me one way of encouraging them to rejoin society is to enable them to exercise some of its important functions of which voting is or should be, one. Dave thinks they have forfeited their right to vote by breaking the law. Hmm.

The Attorney General has been frightfully unhelpful in suggesting his colleagues should acceded to the courts ruling. Lib Dems tend to agree. What will happen? Not sure but I can't see Dave backing down when he has stated his position so clearly. It would be so lovely if Grieve would resign over the issue but while he's old school enough to think principle matters, I don't think he's really THAT old school.  But this is what he thinks about the idea that we should withdraw from the ECHR:

"Some have also argued that the solution for the UK in view of these problems is to withdraw from the convention altogether on the grounds that it is an undesirable and unnecessary fetter of national sovereignty in decision-making. I disagree. Withdrawal would result in reputational damage."

Good for you Dom. Seems to me a compromise whereby offenders on short sentences get to vote would be better than old lags picking up spiffingly big payouts for successfully suiing the government. This one will be interesting to watch as it happens.

Well you have to pick your arguments, and this is a good one for the Tories to have. The public will love this...the whole discredited Brussels shambles (fresh from ruining Europe's economies), with their loony liberal activist judges in tow, fighting the democratically elected government to allow (convicted and incarcerated) criminals the vote. I suspect the Left can suppress their physical illness at the thought of this safe in the knowledge that most of the scum would vote Labour (I would if I were them). This will never pass into law. Elevating the issue will mobilise the populist vote (never good for such anti-democratic organisations as the EU or the liberal elites) and bring the showdown with the EU a step closer. Indeed, bring it on....
Quite right it's a good political platform for Dave but is it right? If Chinese prisoners are allowed to vote where does that put our civil rights? By the way, not clear from your comment that you know the ECHR is not part of the EU.
I know it, but public opinion won't care. Why do we need foreign courts to tell us what to do? It will merely serve to illustrate that none of us voted for any of these courts or judges, and that we can govern ourselves.

Of course it is right that prisoners cannot vote. I would favour the American system more, that certain crimes should result in losing the vote even on release. A shame that liberals spend so much time on the rights of criminals and not victims.
My response to your last point is that our interests are common. If we treat criminals badly they continue to be bad and society still at risk. It's also the benchmark for how civilised we are as De Tocqueville pointed out.
If kindness to prisoners were the solution to reoffending, then crime would be non-existent in today's Britain. It clearly isn't. Instead of giving criminals yet more rights with this lunatic scheme, why don't we try the radical solution of locking them up for decent periods of time. In my experience, reoffending rates are much lower while criminals are actually locked up.
Why not go the whole hog then, and lock them up for life? It costs £40K a year to keep a prisoner and there are lots of cases of criminals going straight after a period of time in jail. There is nothing endemic which makes anyone a lifelong criminal or which passes it on to the next generation; if this were so most Auatralians would be criminals.
Why not indeed. Costs could be reduced...fewer plasma TVs and PS3s would be a start.

And as for "there are lots of cases of criminals going straight after a period of time in jail"...seriously come on. Reoffending rates are very high, and giving them the right to vote (probably Labour), or lounge around in the lap of luxury, isn't going to change that.

I suspect we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one Skipper.
Of course, in the case of China it doesn't matter whether or not they vote, as their vote will make no difference. Unlike in this country. Oh, hang on...

Seriously, while there is merit in your idea of a split in the franchise, it won't solve the problem, which is that there is a blanket ban on some prisoners voting while in prison. That merely opens it up to fresh and expensive challenges. What could be done, instead, is to give all prisoners the right to vote subject to confirmation by the sentencing judge. That way, they don't get the vote unless it's a short sentence for a minor offence to be followed by a rehabilitation programme - and, gratifyingly, that would comply with EU law and stop all this argy-bargy.
Nice, ingenious idea Huw, which sounds like it could work.
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