COMMONS

MPs hear from legal experts on voting by convicted prisoners

01 February 2011

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee takes evidence from legal experts. The committee will explore the options open to the Government in complying with court rulings against the UK’s blanket ban on voting by convicted prisoners

Session Details

At 10am, Tuesday 1 February
Location: Wilson Room, Portcullis House

Witnesses

  • Lord Mackay of Clashfern, former Lord Chancellor (1987–97)
  • Aidan O’Neill QC, a barrister with expertise in prisoners’ rights issues
  • JUSTICE, an all-party law reform and human rights organisation, working to improve the legal system and the quality of justice

Background

The European Court of Human Rights found in 2005 that the UK’s current ban on all serving prisoners from voting contravenes Article 3 of Protocol No 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In June 2010 the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers expressed ‘profound regret’ that the ban had not been lifted in time for the 2010 general election. 

The Committee of Ministers said that it would draw up a resolution for action if the UK Government failed to give prisoners the right to vote in time for the elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011.

On 20 December 2010 Mark Harper MP, the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, announced in a written ministerial statement that offenders sentenced to a custodial sentence of less than four years will be given the right to vote in UK Westminster Parliamentary and European Parliament elections, unless the judge considered this inappropriate when making the sentence.

A backbench debate on voting by prisoners will be held in the House of Commons Chamber shortly, and the committee's session is intended to inform that debate.

Further information

Image: PA

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