Thursday, 10 February 2011


Today Members of Parliament are debating the Court of Human Rights decision that prisoners should be allowed to vote. Strong views have been expressed that this should not be permitted but, as has been pointed out, due to the Court ruling, Great Britain does not have a choice. The argument against the Courts decision is that when a person breaks a law which results in their imprisonment they lose their civil rights. It seems, from press reports that there are very strong views about this from the general public. In the end the Government will have no option but to implement some scheme to satisfy the Court, or be subject to massive claims from people denied what they argue are their democratic rights.

There is another point of view which I hold. As Christians we believe in redemption and forgiveness so prison should be a time for rehabilitation enabling a person to re-enter society as a responsible citizen. One factor in rehabilitation is the recognition by the offender that he or she should participate in the democratic process of our country, both local and national. Voting is part of that participation. I suspect that many in prison have never ever taken the trouble to vote and prison could/should be the place to prepare an ex-offender to take an interest in local and national government.

Perhaps the compromise would be to allow prisoners to vote after they have served 75% of their sentence.


  1. The problem, surely, is this: the Court simply has no power to compel Parliament, or individual MPs, to change the present UK law. The Government, as Executive, has no power to dispense from UK law enacted by Parliament. It will be interesting to see how English courts will square the circle. More fundamentally, I do not see how the details of who is allowed to vote, and in what circumstances, can be a "human right" in itself. The franchise is subject to age limitation, to citizenship limitation, etc.: why can it not be restricted as a penalty?

  2. I confess to being highly troubled about this whole affair, and fieldofdreams2010 makes good points. The situation isn't helped by media hysteria, with the Grauniad and its cohort taking one extreme and the Daily Hate Mail and friends taking the other. I suppose it's good for the (newspaper) circulation...

    I do agree that prison is about rehabilitation as well as punishment, and I note that we generally handle the rehabilitation part badly. Perhaps prisoners could be given the vote for the Parliament during which they expect to be released, and subject to good behaviour. This would mean that prisoners would be able to vote only in the election for the government that would be in power upon their release.

    It's a difficult one.

  3. All this garbage about "human rights" never seems to consider the human rights of victims.