The continued failure to implement Hirst v UK #echr

mail prisIt is over a decade now since the European Court of Human Rights delivered Hirst v United Kingdom (6 October 2005), ruling that the UK’s blanket (legislative) ban on convicted prisoners voting breached Art 3 of Protocol 1 to the Convention. Five years ago, in Greens and MT v UK (23 Nov 2010), the Court ordered the UK to table Convention-compliant legislative proposals to secure compliance with Hirst. This resulted in a Report of a special Joint Committee of the UK Parliament (the Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Prisoner Voting (Eligibility) Bill (16 December 2013)), which concluded that the law reform required to secure compliance with the Convention was comparatively minor, agreed that there were sound reasons to amend the law and proposed specific ways forward.

Two years on and the UK government has done no more than acknowledge the Report, which Parliament has not considered. With the law still not amended, on 9 December 2015 a further milestone in the chronology of prisoner voting saga occurred when the Committee of Ministers passed a second interim resolution highly critical of the UK’s inaction. The Daily Telegraph has reported this as a victory for the UK, although, in fact, the Committee of Ministers will return to the matter in December 2016.

This post discusses and criticises the reasons for inaction and non-compliance supplied by the Michael Gove (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice) when he appeared before the House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Constitution on 2 December 2015 (Q 11, pp17-18 [unrevised version]). Continue reading

The Prisoner Voting Saga… Stocktaking/ the story so far

pris_vot_aspxThe prisoner voting saga has become so complex and convoluted that I thought a quick summary of where we are at could be timely. At the risk of oversimplification this post attempts this. It also reports upon the background to and the significance of the recent Committee of Ministers’ decision with respect to the UK’s continued failure to implement Hirst v UK (and ensuing case law). (At the risk of a shameless plug, for a detailed account of the prisoner voting saga, the surrounding Strasbourg case law, how the government of the day and then the Court have reacted, see my article in Human Rights Law Review – here).

In what follows, I will (1) provide an overview of the initial UK stance against prisoner voting, then (2) address (again in overview) how the matter has been the subject of detailed consideration by a Parliamentary Committee in the UK, concluded with a Report which also drew attention to (3) the bigger issues at stake, i.e. the UK’s relationship with Strasbourg. In the final section (4), I will report on the Committee of Ministers’ recent decision as noted above. With this background post in  place, I will post again on this matter in a week or so. Continue reading