This House of Commons Briefing Paper analyses the debate over the voting rights of prisoners since May 2015, it also includes a concise summary of the main developments before May 2015. Download the full reportOverviewIn December 2017 the UK Government came up with proposals that the Council of Europe said were sufficient to signify compliance with the 2005 ruling.
This House of Commons Briefing Paper analyses the debate over the voting rights of prisoners since May 2015, it also includes a concise summary of the main developments before May 2015.
Download the full report
- In December 2017 the UK Government came up with proposals that the Council of Europe said were sufficient to signify compliance with the 2005 ruling.
- The responsibility for local and devolved elections in Scotland and Wales, including the franchise for those electionsis nowdevolved.
- This briefing gives a summary of events before May 2015 and examines the debate since May 2015.
- For more detail of events before 2015, see Commons Librarys standard note Prisoners voting rights (2005 to May 2015).
- The current provisions are set out in Section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
- This ban does not apply to prisoners on remand.
- The disenfranchisement of prisoners in Great Britain dates back to the Forfeiture Act 1870 and was been linked to the notion of civic death.
- In 2001 the ban was challenged by three convicted prisoners.
- The domestic courts rejected the challenge and one of the prisoners, John Hirst, then took his case to the ECtHR.
- The central element to the ECtHR ruling was that the UKs blanket ban on prisoner voting was indiscriminate and disproportionate.
- The Hirst (No 2) judgment set off a political debate.
- This debate has largely focused on the constitutional issues raised by the judgment, in particular: the UKs relationship with the ECtHR; reform of the Human Rights Act 1998; and the importance of parliamentary sovereignty.
- Hirst (No 2) is regarded by some as an example of the ECtHR overstepping its proper role and encroaching upon Parliaments legislative authority.
- In the 2005 Parliament, the Labour Government issued two consultations, one in 2006 and one in 2009.
- It did not bring forward final proposals before the 2010 General Election.
- In 2013, a Joint Committee scrutinising the Bill recommended that all prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or less should be entitled to vote in all UK parliamentary, local and European elections.
- The Government did not formally respond and these proposals were not taken forward.
- Neither a response to the Committee nor a consultation on the Human Rights Act has yet been published.
- These proposals are more limited in scope than those included in previous proposals.
- The main change proposed is to allow prisoners on Temporary Licence to vote.
- It agreed to report back to the Council of Europes Committee of Ministers by September 2018.
- The Council of Europe confirmed that the case was closed at its meeting of September 2018.