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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Why i'm in favour of prisoner votes

I've been thinking about this issue for a while and i've made up my mind.

I am in favour of giving votes to prisoners in the United Kingdom. I feel that voting is a right not a privillage to people. However bad your crime you have committed and some are terrible i can assure you that having the right to vote should not be taken away from you.

It has no affect on your punishment of serving time at her majesty's pleasure but what it does do is give you a voice. I'm a big advocate of human rights and this i feel is one. For years we campaigned for votes and a democractic society. Now we have it we must not abuse it.

Especially with women who have only been legally allowed to vote since about 1928. This is something we must treasure and uphold in this country.

In many countries such as newly over thrown Egypt many men and women still dont get to vote.

Ok i may not think that voting in Great Britian today may change things dramatically with both Labour and the Conservatives supporting capitailism, something i'm strongly against if you were not aware but as a left winger i do feel that prisoner votes are essential and enabling prisoners to vote can be made part of their overall rehabilitation back into the wider society.

I do recognise there are various forms of crime and each case may be assessed individually still but on the whole i dont think this will harm prisoners or society as a whole and this group of votes is just waiting for a proper left wing political party to grasp hold of and run with. It is as they say there for the taking.

As i've taken a while to come to this decision as it is quite a big issue. I am throwing it out there for everyone who radsthis blog to comment on if you please. I'd be interested to read your views.
I think this goes beyonda purely left wing stance in many ways, it stands as a fairness for all. Something of which as a socialist i am truely in support of. As a classless society i'd loveto see fairness for all in terms of crime and punishment too. Giving prisoners the right to vote is not devalueing why they are in prison in the first place, often for very serious crimes but the right to vote should not play a part in that juditial process at all in my opinion. It is a right, a human right which must never be taken away from a truely democratic society.

sadly underneath here is the Guardian report about the result of the vote in the house of commons last week on the matter of prisoner votes. The article below goes in to various detail about rights of people and various MP's views on votes for prisoners and also the EU's iinvolvement in British politics today. Interesting little piece.

MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining a blanket ban preventing prisoners from voting, strengthening the government's hand as it seeks to water down a ruling from the European court of human rights.

Ministers will start drawing up a compromise proposal after MPs voted by 234 to 22, a majority of 212, in favour of a cross-party motion that said parliament should decide on such an important issue.

The motion called for the retention of the status quo in which all prisoners, except those on remand or imprisoned for contempt or default, are barred from voting. Under one option being examined by ministers – who were expecting the strong vote – judges would be given discretion to decide which prisoners could vote.

The non-binding vote prompted Eurosceptics to call on the government to consider withdrawing from the court. Blair Gibbs, of the Policy Exchange thinktank, said: "Now is the opportunity to go to the root of this problem which is the expansionist Strasbourg court. The UK government should use prisoner votes to reassert its authority over Strasbourg, and if necessary, prepare to leave the court's jurisdiction if it cannot be reformed."

The vote came at the end of a lengthy debate in which MPs lined up to condemn a court ruling that called for the lifting of the blanket ban. David Cameron, who gave Tory backbenchers a free vote, invited MPs to deliver a clear signal of their opposition to the ruling by supporting a cross-party motion tabled by Jack Straw and David Davis.

Davis, the former Tory leadership contender, told MPs: "The general point is very clear in this country – that is that it takes a pretty serious crime to get yourself sent to prison. And as a result you have broken the contract with society to such a serious extent that you have lost all of those rights – your liberty and your right to vote.

"So it is not unjust. Every citizen knows the same level of crime which costs them their liberty, costs them their vote. What the court calls blanket rule I call uniform justice."

Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, told MPs that a constructive debate could lead to a more flexible stance in Strasbourg. The court judgment, made in October 2005, had been made in part because parliament had not held a substantive debate on the ban, introduced in 1870. Britain proposed granting the vote to prisoners jailed for less than four years, though judges would have discretion to remove this right.

Grieve said: "While, of course, members of the House are entitled to express their disagreement with the judgment of the European court – and indeed I have done so myself – the fact that we may be in disagreement doesn't in itself solve the problem.

"In order for the views of this House to be helpful, we need to demonstrate that we are engaging with the concerns of the court and also that we are not just expressing a series of frustrations – although I have to say I have felt rather angry on this issue in recent years. We do have to see whether by a dialogue about what the house considers to be proper and reasonable in respect of prisoner voting we can ensure that we bring our weight to bear as a legislature in terms of the development of the jurisprudence of the court. That gives us the best possible chance of winning the challenges which may then occur thereafter."

The attorney general warned Eurosceptics that Britain would be acting "tyranically" and in breach of the rule of law if it defied rulings from the court. Grieve issued the warning after Claire Perry, a Tory backbencher, asked what mechanism existed to enforce the will of the court.

The attorney general said there was no mechanism, but added: "So one needs to be a little bit careful about this.

"The principles on which United Kingdom governments have always operated is that if there are international obligations which confer a power on the court and the court orders compensation, we will honour those international obligations. It is our duty to do so because without it we diminish our own status in terms of our respect for international law as much as for domestic law. It is a bit of a red herring to suggest that just because it can't be enforced that it is a justification for ignoring something. That would be a fairly momentous change in UK practice."

Britain had to comply with the court's judgments, said Grieve, because it signed up to the European convention on human rights, which provides the legal basis for the court. It underpins the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, which has 47 members.

Labour's former home secretary, Jack Straw, denied that the Human Rights Act he introduced was to blame.

"The tension, the conflict, which we have to resolve today can in no sense be laid at the door of the Human Rights Act nor indeed, in my judgment, at the plain text of the convention. Rather, the problem has arisen because of the judicial activism by the court in Strasbourg widening their role, not only beyond anything anticipated in the founding treaties, but also not anticipated by the subsequent active consent of all the state parties, including the UK."

Denis MacShane, Labour's former Europe minister, defended the Strasbourg court. "I believe that peoples of other regions of the world – Africa, Asia, South America – would die to have an ECHR to tell their government what to do," he said. "Populist illiberalism is the new politics of much of the continent. It's a shame to see it arrive in the Commons – I hope our country does not tear up the treaty or quit the Council of Europe."

Juliet Lyon of the Prison Reform Trust said the vote did not express the view of the Commons as nearly two-thirds had not backed the ban. Ministers were allowed to abstain, though their aides were free to vote for the motion. "In a free vote, 234 MPs chose to hang on to the 19th century punishment of civic death enshrined in the 1870 Forfeiture Act," Lyon said. "22 MPs voted against the motion. This means just over one third of the total number of MPs in the House of Commons voted to retain the ban.

"Although the vote is not legally binding on the government, the message it sends to prisoners and people working in the prison service is a poor one. The outdated ban on prisoners voting has no place in a modern prison system, which is about rehabilitation and respect for the rule of law."

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