High Court blocks compensation bid by prisoners prevented from voting in last years' general election

With 585 prisoners commencing claims that their human rights were breached, and a potential of 1,000 cases coming to court, the High Court has now blocked an attempt to claim compensation by prisoners prevented from voting in the 2010 general election.

In what could be seen as good news for those in the government, including the prime minister, who have voiced their objection to allowing prisoners to vote so vehemently, the High Court has prevented prisoners claiming compensation as they were prohibited from voting in the 2010 general elections.

Mr Justice Langstaff said "This judgement is to the effect that, applying those laws, including the Human Rights Act 1998, a prisoner will not succeed before a court in England and Wales in any claims for damages or a declaration based on his disenfranchisement while serving his sentence."

"The case was heard a day before parliament debated whether it should introduce legislation to amend the 1983 Act (Representation of the People Act 1983). Though the subject matter of each is the same – the enfranchisement of prisoners – the role of the courts and of the legislature are distinct ...

"This judgement is to the effect that, applying those laws, including the Human Rights Act 1998, a prisoner will not succeed before a court in England and Wales in any claim for damages or a declaration based on his disenfranchisement while serving his sentence."

The judge said the fact that the 1983 act was incompatible with a prisoner's rights under the European convention arose because of the blanket nature of the ban, as previous cases made clear. Those cases expressly recognised that a state had a wide margin of appreciation in deciding the category of case or prisoner for whom a restriction on the right to vote would not be a disproportionate interference with his rights generally.

He said it was not obvious if Paul Hydes, the lead claimant, would be in a category that would be enfranchised "however the margin of appreciation be exercised in honouring the government's international obligations".

"It cannot therefore be said that if the incompatibility were removed he would then have the vote," said the judge. "All would depend on how, legitimately, parliament chose to legislate. He might well remain outside the scope of the franchise."

He concluded: "I hold that there are no reasonable grounds in domestic law for bringing a claim for damages or a declaration for being disenfranchised whilst a prisoner.

The lead claimant, Paul Hydes was convicted in July 2009 of burglary, robbery and firearms offences. He was serving a life sentence with a minimum term before parole of four years and 265 days.

Where now?  The High Court may indeed have provided the many who object to prisoners being allowed to vote some welcome support, but we are answerable to the Council of Europe. This is not going to go away and what gives us the right to dictate to other countries how they should behave if we will not listen to other countries' opinions however unpalatable it may seem to many of us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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