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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

April 4, 2005: New Call for Sentenced Prisoners to Get the Vote

Sentenced prisoners are currently barred from voting. A coalition of politicians, church leaders, ex-offenders, human rights groups and prison reformers is calling for sentenced prisoners to be given the vote in the forthcoming UK general election.

The Barred from Voting campaign organised by the Prison Reform Trust and Unlock, the national association of ex-offenders, wants a review of the 135 year old law which means that when people are sentenced to prison, they are stripped of their voting rights. According to the campaign, the law is a relic from the nineteenth century which dates back to the Forfeiture Act of 1870 and is based on a notion of civic death, a punishment entailing the withdrawal of citizenship rights.

The electoral ban on sentenced prisoners voting is contained in Section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, amended by the Representation of the People Acts 1985 and 2000.

The UK, is one of only eight European countries automatically disenfranchising all sentenced prisoners. Remand prisoners, people imprisoned for contempt of court and fine defaulters held in prison are, however, eligible to vote. Most European countries allow all prisoners to vote. Eighteen European countries, including Ireland, The Netherlands and Spain have no ban. Eight other European countries only ban some sentenced prisoners from voting. In France and Germany, courts have the power to impose loss of voting rights as an additional punishment.

In March 2004  in a case brought by a life sentenced prisoner, John Hirst, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the ban on sentenced prisoners voting violated Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Government has appealed against the unanimous judgement to the Grand Chamber of the European Court. The appeal will be held on April 27, just before an expected general election, but a final decision will not made until later in the year.

The Liberal Democrats leader, Charles Kennedy, has said his party supports giving the vote to all prisoners. The Barred from Voting campaign is also supported by senior Conservative politicians, including the former Home Secretary Lord Hurd, and senior Labour politicians such as David Winnick MP. Other supporters include the Bishops of Prisons for the Anglican and Catholic churches, the current and former Chief Inspectors of Prisons, the President of the Prison Governors Association and the 50 members of the Penal Affairs Consortium.

A Barred from Voting campaign briefing published today states:

  •  The right to vote is an inalienable human right enshrined in Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • The ban is not an effective deterrent and does not protect public safety. It is an unjust additional punishment imposed, but not articulated, by the courts.
  • It contributes to the failure of imprisonment to rehabilitate six out of ten offenders. Giving prisoners the vote would encourage them to become responsible, law abiding citizens.
  • If sentenced prisoners had the vote politicians would have to take more of an interest in prisons and the issues raised by prisoners.
  • Denying sentenced prisoners the vote perpetuates social exclusion and undermines the Government's civic renewal and active citizenship agenda by legitimizing the civic death of thousands of people who are sentenced to prison.
  • Minority ethnic groups are disproportionately affected. Due to their over-representation in the prison population, black men are eight times as likely to be barred from voting as their white counterparts.
  • The UK is one of only eight European countries automatically to disenfranchise sentenced prisoners.
  • Many senior managers in the Prison Service believe that voting rights and representation form part of the process of preparing prisoners for resettlement in their communities. They acknowledge that granting prisoners the right to vote would not threaten public safety. The Government has yet to clarify the position for people currently serving the sentence of intermittent custody.

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said:

'People are sent to prison to lose their liberty not their identity. Prison has an important job to do to prevent the next victim and release people less, not more likely, to offend again. Prisoners should be given every opportunity to payback for what they have done, take responsibility for their lives and make plans for effective resettlement and this should include maintaining their right to vote. It's time to stop pretending that people in prison don't exist.'

Bobby Cummines, Chief Executive of Unlock, said:

'Giving prisoners the vote is a question of moral conscience not political conscience. If prisoners are excluded from voting then we don't have a democratic society we are just paying lip service to one. The Government must accept that prisoners remain citizens of this country with legitimate human rights, including the right to vote.'