UK raises stakes on prisoner votes in stand-off with European Court
By JAMES CHAPMAN
Britain last night demanded that the European Court of Human Rights drops its controversial demand that we hand prisoners the vote for the first time in 140 years.
Ministers escalated a stand-off with the Strasbourg court by formally requesting that it reviews a ruling that a ban on convicted criminals taking part in elections is scrapped.
Constitutional affairs minister Mark Harper revealed that the Government has asked that the case be referred to the ‘grand chamber’ of the ECHR, a 17-strong panel of its most senior judges.
Strasbourg standoff: Ministers have asked for the decision to be referred to the grand chamber of 17-judges at the European Court of Human Rights
Mr Harper told the Daily Mail that one of the key objections of the court to Britain’s ban - that Parliament had not considered the issue for more than a century - had now been addressed.
MPs voted overwhelmingly last month to reject the ECHR’s demands that Britain hands prisoners the vote on the grounds that their human rights were being infringed.
They agreed that the ban must be maintained because convicted criminals have ‘broken their contract with society’.
After six hours of impassioned debate, they voted by 234 votes to 22, a majority of 212, to defy the ECHR’s ruling.
Dozens of Conservative MPs insist after decades of toeing the line, the time has come for Britain to draw a line in the sand and tell Strasbourg judges that they have exceeded their authority.
Mr Harper said that following the vote, the Government has now requested that the court’s judgement should now be referred to the grand chamber of the ECHR for review.
The appeal is in the case of two prisoners, named as Robert Greens and MT, who were awarded £4,230 in costs and expenses for their loss of voting rights last November.
‘One of the real issues that the court raised was that the blanket ban had been in place since 1870 and that Parliament had not considered whether it was in line with modern penal policy,’ Mr Harper said.
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‘Now the Commons has debated the issue very thoroughly, and had taken a very clear view. We hope the court will agree to look at this again, consider what Parliament has said and come back with a revised view.’
In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the blanket ban imposed by Britain on its prisoners’ right to vote was discriminatory.
It followed a legal challenge by killer John Hirst, who was jailed for hacking his landlady to death with an axe in 1979.
Labour consulted on changing the law but dragged its feet, given how controversial the issue proved.
But last year the Council of Europe warned the Government that its failure to act could lead to a string of compensation claims.
Ministers admit that the ECHR could simply reject its request for a rethink - but that would be seen as an extraordinary snub to a sovereign Parliament.
Last night’s move could also be a delaying tactic designed to hold the issue up further.
Some Government lawyers have argued that the Strasbourg judgements are binding on the UK and no action that could be taken now – even withdrawal from the ECHR – will remove the legal obligation to implement them.Prisoner votes: UK raises stakes in standoff with ECHR | Mail Online
Создается прецедент отрицательной реакции государства на решения ЕСПЧ. Вопрос, кто последует примеру Великобритании.