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Should prisoners have the right to vote? No, says UK's supreme court


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Should prisoners have the right to vote? No, says UK's supreme court

Two convicted murderers have lost their bid to vote in UK elections.

Peter Chester and George McGeoch had argued that EU law gave them the right to vote – even if British law doesn’t.

But the UK’s Supreme Court has now dismissed the pair’s appeals.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the ruling, telling the House of Commons it was “a great victory for common sense”.

The ruling comes eight years after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) told the UK a blanket ban on allowing prisoners to go to the polls was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ECHR said the UK must change its law, but it is still considering what to do.

A draft bill is currently being considered by the UK’s parliament, which could see inmates given the right to vote if they are serving shorter terms.

Handing down the decision, Lord Mance said that in relation to both appellants’ claims under EU law: “The provisions on voting contained in the applicable European treaties focus on the core concerns of ensuring equal treatment between EU citizens residing in member states other than that of their nationality, and so safeguarding freedom of movement within the EU. Eligibility to vote in member states is basically a matter for national legislatures.”

Sean Humber, head of human rights at the law firm Leigh Day, which represents more than 500 prisoners currently taking legal action through the ECHR, told the Guardian: “Over the last decade, the European court of human rights has repeatedly found that the blanket ban on prisoner voting in the UK represents a breach of prisoners’ human rights.

“The UK government remains morally and legally bound to take the necessary action to remedy the breach. David Cameron suggests that the prospect of giving prisoners the vote makes him feel physically ill. For a man with such an apparently delicate constitution, it is surprising that wilfully ignoring a succession of court rulings appears to have so little effect on him.”

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