The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said on Tuesday (10 February) that the United Kingdom had breached the voting rights of current and former inmates in the country’s prison system. The court reported that London had breached their voting rights multiple times but the inmates are not entitled to compensation.
According to official findings, the rights of 1,015 prisoners were violated in various elections that took place between 2009 and 2011. The case was brought up by lawyers representing current and former prisoners. The Strasbourg-based court said that prisoners had been denied the right to vote in the elections to the EU Parliament in 2009, the UK parliamentary election in 2010, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh assembly, and Northern Irish assembly elections in 2011.
According to Sean Humber, a lawyer representing more than 500 clients in this case, the government appeared to take a “perverse pleasure in unlawfully breaching the human rights of thousands of its citizens”. He thinks that this case should raise concerns to “all of us that the government has so little regard to international human rights and the rule of law.” The European court had said already four times before that the UK ban on prisoners voting was illegal. The first such case occurred in 2005 when the court ruled that the UK had not complied with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Both the previous Labor coalition and the current government have failed to discuss this legislation. The current leadership does not envisage taking any further steps until the elections in May this year. Prime Minister David Cameron had commented before that the idea of allowing prisoners to vote makes him “physically sick”. His Conservative party has consistently opposed the idea of allowing prisoners to vote, while accusing the ECHR of eroding UK’s legislative process.