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18.12.13

UK ‘should lift blanket ban’ on prisoner voting rights

Prisoners serving short jail terms should be entitled to vote, a joint committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons has concluded.

In 2004 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a blanket ban on prisoners voting was unlawful. But in 2011 MPs voted to keep the UK ban.

The committee recommends that those serving terms of a year or less, and those coming to the end of their sentence, should be able to vote. The attitude towards the ruling should be driven by a “more constructive response of rehabilitation and restoration”, they have urged.

Accepting the change would see about 7,000 prisoners get the right to vote.

Tory MP Crispin Blunt added: “The decision about which offenders to enfranchise, particularly those on the cusp of a custodial or community sentence, should follow reflective judgement rather than an immediate splenetic response.”

But former schools minister Nick Gibb, one of the committee members to dissent from its main recommendation, said: “Parliament will need to consider whether it is right to extend the franchise to those denied their liberty and the right to engage in society as a result of serving a custodial sentence.

“Parliament will also need to consider the extent to which it is content to permit the European Court of Human Rights to encroach on domestic policy areas that appear far removed from the original intentions of the drafters of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

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