European Court again rules that UK in breach of the right to free elections on prisoner voting

a judge's gavel Photo credit 3D Judges Gavel by Chris Potter (2012) / / CC BY 2.0

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled again that the UK’s blanket ban preventing serving prisoners from voting is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In November 2017, the UK government announced a policy change that would allow prisoners already released from prison on temporary licence to vote.

However, this change is likely to affect less than a hundred prisoners out of a total prison population of approximately 83,000 in the UK.

In this case before the European Court, the seven prisoners were prevented from voting in either the election to the European Parliament in 2014, in the election to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 or the General Election in June 2017.
The court stated that such a blanket ban is in breach of article 3 of protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the right to free elections.

The court did not, however, award any compensation to the affected prisoners who brought the legal challenge.

Since 2016, the Scottish Parliament has had the power to say who can vote in Scottish local government elections. The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee published a report in 2018 recommending that all prisoners be allowed to vote. The Scottish Government however, favours allowing those on short sentences of less than 12 months to vote – a consultation on this issue closed at end of March 2019 and a response is awaited.




Image credit 3D Judges Gavel by Chris Potter (2012) / / CC BY 2.0