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The government and the European Court of Human Rights are on a collision course over prisoner votes

10 December 2012

7:03 PM

10 December 2012

7:03 PM

A showdown between the government and the European Court of Human Rights over prisoner votes drew that bit closer today. The government hoped that having parliament vote to uphold a blanket ban on prisoners voting would buy it some time, as the European Court of Human Rights would then have to start examining the issue all over again.

But that hope was dashed today when the Council of Europe declared that a blanket ban ‘cannot be considered compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights’. It also said that it expected to return to this case in September 2013. I expect parliament will still vote for the blanket ban, if it is given the option, meaning that parliament—which is sovereign in this country—and the court will be in conflict.

It was almost inevitable that at some point, there would be a clash between this country and an increasingly activist court. But it now seems increasingly likely that this will happen before the next election. This makes it all the more imperative that the Conservatives go into 2015 with a proper policy on the court.

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Show comments
  • LB

    Blanket ban.

    Ok allow prisoners convicted of dying in the Palace of Westminster the vote. [Pick your own stupid law, there are lots of them]

    Then there is no blanket ban.

    Meanwhile, 4,700 bn of debts hidden off the book, and no action on that fraud.

  • MirthaTidville

    The best bit I read was if we continue this impasse then the UK may have to leave the ECHR…….so what`s not to like folks…

  • barbie

    They are interfering again, and seem hell bent on annoying us. Our parliament is sovereign and this government should settle this once and for all. They could fine us, but cannot insist we pay the fine; we should ignore it. Cameron as pledged no prisoners would get the vote, and I agree with him, if you break the law you lose your rights. Most of these so called judges are no such thing, just appointed boffins. Cameron must now decide which way he’s going.
    We cannot go on just not agreeing and arguing. What we need now is the decision whether we remain in the E U or not, before the next election has the Tories may not get in. Leaving us with the threat of a Miliband government would in effect mean we would have this court put upon us without us having a say. No, this must be decided once and for all. If the Conservatives fail to give us the chance it will mean their chances at the next election is zero. I for one cannot believe they will leave this question open while their chances of winning the next election seem slimmer by the day.
    As for the repatriation of powers, its a fools paradise if any in government believe they will allow that to happen. Cameron should wise up before its to late.

  • dalai guevara

    Cameron was awarded one of the key ‘paradigm’ prizes of a lifetime – to paraphrase Bourdieu’s category of social classification. Tony Blair would have done anything to get one, Al Gore gave up the fight in Florida’s courts because of this prize. For many, the receipt of this prize symbolises the peer group acknowledgement of a fulfilled life.

    But then Daid missed the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, as only leader in Europe. That must be a heartbreaking experience…

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Can somebody decrypt this disjointed collection of strange phrasings?

      • dalai guevara

        Bourdieu would send you running off in tears, as you prefer cerebration in black and white, or is your main purpose in life…just blowing off?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …that’s assuming this tangled mess has a purpose. It may just be random stupidity.

        • dalai guevara

          Mr T and Bourdieu in one post – too much for a ‘scientist’?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            OK, I’d like to amend the above decryption request, to add the above gibberish.

    • NeilMc1

      Actually six EU leaders missed the ceremony.

      • dalai guevara

        As for countries, does that include England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (the northern province)?

        Who were the other two?

  • HooksLaw

    The ECHR is OK when it suits the Barclay Bros. So I guess that makes them lickspittles

    The ECHR is not opposed to banning prisoners from voting. It has ruled against a blanket ban.
    The ECHR has what is called a ‘margin of appreciation’ which takes into account the different values of different countries. It used this concept to actually rule in favour of the UK to prevent publication of a sexually explicit children’s book.

    I do not think prisoners should vote, precious few of them want to, but in effect the difference at issue is very marginal.

    • Christian

      Your legalese is all well and good but it misses the point; these judges are attempting to subvert the will of a democratically elected parliament.

    • an ex-tory voter

      Absolutely not, the issue at stake is whether we are ruled by an appointed elite, or by our elected Parliament. There is nothing “marginal” about this issue!

    • Andy

      No prisoner has had the vote in the United Kingdom since the passage of the Forfeiture Act in 1870. The ECHR is wrong in Law: the matter was considered when the Convention was drawn up and making voting a human right was rejected, and rightly so.

      In the United Kingdom only Parliament may change the law – not the Courts and certainly not foreign courts, and not the Government. The Will of Parliament is clear, so one is at a loss to understand why the ECHR is so keen to pick a fight it cannot win and when it is so clearly wrong having incorrectly interpreted the Convention.

    • mikewaller

      You are absolutely right. Picking a fight over this is unspeakably stupid. The fact that Straw and Davis are the Poster- Girls says it all. The piece written by Hugo Rifkind on this subject in this week’s Specie is so full of tendentious nonsense he really ought to be drummed out of the Brownie pack. Prisoners should not vote in the home constituencies because they aren’t there? That’s what ex-pats do all the time, you dumbo!

      Any nil risk strategy that just, just might serve to reconnect some criminals to Society is worth giving a go. Indeed, Ruth Dudley Edwards who graced last week’s pages with a commendable attack on modern art, is also an expert on Northern Ireland. In the course of commenting on the flag issue on Radio4, she said that getting interested in the study of politics whilst in jail was a significant factor in the Provos giving up killing and torturing people. When are our idiot politicians and journalists going to stop playing to a very ill-informed electorate and start explaining things? Not any time soon!

  • Vulture

    If the conflict is between our Parliament which, although filled with thieves, liars, cheats and weirdos is still our own sovereign elected body (God help us) and the ‘court’ presided over by the shifty looking little man in your picture, with his ill-starred EU badge of shame on his shoulder and another woven into the court carpet at his feet ( just in case you wondered who called the shots in the ECHR) – then its a no brainer.

    Anyone who tells us to obey the ECHR is a toadying lickspittle and a traitor – D. Grieve, this means you!) We should instantly suspend membership and bring in a BRitish Bill of Rights as promised in the Tories 2010 election manifesto.

    Besides, David Cameron has given one of his cast-iron guarantees that his Govt will not give prisoners the vote – and we all know we can rely on his word, can’t we?


    • telemachus

      You value the worth of a Cameron cast iron guarantee?
      You have not explained how we spread human rights to the torture regimes of Eastern Europe and flout the Court ourselves

      • Vulture

        You obviously don’t appreciate satire you dumbass.

      • Hugh

        You have not explained how we spread human rights to the torture regimes of Eastern Europe by not flouting it, so I guess we’re even.

    • realfish

      The ECHR, in denying me the right of self determination through my elected representatives, is in breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
      It should commence proceedings against itself immediately.

    • Baron

      Vulture, here you are getting it wrong, the ECHr should not only insist prisoners get a vote, they should insist prisoners elect an MP, they are, by size, a solid constituency on their own, they’re human, should have uman rights, right? Well, if anyone of their rank were to be elected he’ll feel at home amongst the other mendacious, cheating lot in the House, may even bring some wisdom of the street to the place.

      Worth considering that, my blogging friend.

    • JohnSF

      “EU badge … on his shoulder ”

      Wrong. The circle of stars was originally the emblem of the Council of Europe (since early 50s’s IIRC). Adopted by the EEC (as then was) in 1985 because it didn’t have a flag and wanted one.

      • Vulture

        Who cares who adopted it first? It still proves that the EU and ECHR are essentially one and the same.
        If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…etc.
        Incidentally, what’s happened to the judge’s arms?