United Kingdom prisoner voting may be affected by European court ruling
Ukip however warned that while the ruling allowed member states to impose a partial ban on prisoner voting that is proportionate to the offences committed, it did not support Britain’s blanket ban.
France’s policy of banning a few prisoners from voting for life is legal, the European Union’s top court has ruled.
David Cameron renewed his refusal on Tuesday to comply with the original 2005 Strasbourg ruling that a blanket ban on all prisoners was unlawful.
Convicted murderer Thierry Delvigne claimed a ban on him voting in European Parliament elections violated his civil and political rights. In the past, Cameron has argued that divisions on the issue between Europe and Britain meant the country should break with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR)-a body that is separate to the EU.
That case was brought by inmates who were in prison during various elections between 2009 and 2011, and was the fourth time the ECHR has ruled against the UK’s ban on prisoner voting.
However, responding to the French court which asked its opinion, the ECJ in Luxembourg found that the fundamental right to vote can be limited if it is done in a “proportionate” manner.
In fact, France changed its legislation in 1994 to end the automatic loss of the vote for those convicted of serious offences and set a 10-year limit on bans imposed by the courts.
And it ruled again in February that the rights of United Kingdom prisoners were breached when they were prevented from voting in elections. The supreme court in Britain has spoken.
But when the government proposed legislation in 2010 to restrict the voting ban to those serving sentences of more than four years, a Commons vote by 234 to 22 made clear that MPs were not prepared to comply with the European human rights ruling.
The generally pro-European Cameron has always been opposed to giving prisoners the vote, and has previously said the idea makes him “physically ill”.
Ukip justice and home affairs spokeswoman Diane James said: “A blanket ban on votes for prisoners is the expressed will of the British Parliament”.