Sunday, November 18, 2012

Votes For Prisoners - Remove The No-Go Sign

The following is from a BBC Report, see here.

"Ministers will give Parliament another vote on whether to give prisoners the vote this week, the BBC understands. Political correspondent Carole Walker said she understood MPs would consider options, on Thursday, including votes for those serving six months or less and those serving four years or less. A third option on the draft bill would be no votes at all, she added."

I wonder if any MP will do the honourable thing and put down an amendment to the Government's list of options, in order to allow all prisoners to have the vote. If there are worries about prison loads of voters distorting the outcome in specific constituencies, they could be given votes via their last known places of residence prior to their imprisonment.

The main reason that prisoners should be able to have the vote is that they are human beings. But even if they are thought to be not very nice human beings, that is no reason for disenfranchising them. For quite correctly we don't otherwise try to separate the wheat from the chaff when we decide who is entitled to the vote - not since we  came (basically) to adopt the correct overriding principle of adult male suffrage. Separating the wheat from the chaff is an elitist response, contrary to democratic values.

There is also the fact that masses of people who commit serious crimes, never get caught. There is no mechanism we can adopt to remove the franchise rights of those who have murdered, raped and pillaged, but have got away with their crimes.

Everyone resident in the UK over a certain age (which I feel should be 16) should have the vote as they are subject to the laws which parliament determines. This is obviously the case with prisoners, as the law has caught up with them. The only exception to the right to vote should be for those who can't vote, due their having the most serious of learning difficulties. And even then we should err on the side of caution.

I just hope there are some MPs who see things in the above light. After all they are supposed to be at the cutting edge of democracy.

I have never heard a principled argument against what I say above. There are only appeals to our prejudices, as shown by the interviewer in the video attached to the link in my opening sentence.


jailhouselawyer said...

Thanks Harry

Harry Barnes said...

John. Do you have a link to the 22 names of MPs and the two tellers who opposed Cameron's position on Votes for Prisoners in February?

Below are two valuable comments on the BBC item I give a link to.

Comment number 599.
Circus maxima
18th November 2012 - 17:15

Criminals go into jail and are denied their freedom...but they are not denied their human rights and most aspects of their lives go on....they can own houses, have bank accounts, own stocks and shares and earn money. They can vote for building society rule changes, they can object to planning applications and company chairmen. They have lost their freedom but they are still part of society.

Comment number 532.
18th November 2012 - 15:53

Sinner, saint, idiot or genius, no-one is "more entitled" than anyone else to exist. Removing the right to vote just spurs the hatred and long term feelings of being oppressed by society, the feeling you don't count, have no redemption, outcast. This generally leads to terrorism, gun crazed attacks and all the other things "society does not understand". Let them vote LAB or CON, it matters not.

jailhouselawyer said...


Harry Barnes said...

John : Thank you for the link. In the debate on 10 February 2011, it was possible to vote against the motion on three main grounds. (1) To defend the rights of the European Court of Human Rights. (2) In support of the move to give more (or full) voting rights to prisoners.(3) From a combination of both of the above reasons. It is theoretically possible but highly unlikely that some might have abstained or even have voted for the motion, who took the line that they believed more (or all) prisoners should have the vote, but they didn't think it was up to the European Court of Human Rights to have a say in the matter.

With the two tellers, only 24 MPs opposed the motion. They were Alan Beith, Peter Bottomley, Tom Brake, Jonathan Edwards, Don Foster, Barry Gardiner, Kate Green, Duncan Hames,Lady Hermon,Simon Hughes, Julian Huppert, Glenda Jackson, Elfyn Llwyd, Andrew Love, Caroline Lucas, Kerry MaCarthy,John McDonnell, Tessa Munt, Yasmin Qureshi, Alan Reid, Hywel Williams, Stephen Williams, and the tellers Jeremy Corbyn and Lorely Burt.

I will email those I knew to encourage them to submit an appropriate amendment to the Government's coming options - even though the amendment is unlikely to be selected.

I liked this contribution from the earlier debate from Peter Bottomley - "When someone is convicted of an offence, a number of elements are available to the court in disposing of the sentence. I cannot think of a single objective that is met by withdrawing the right to be registered to vote and to vote. It is clearly not a deterrent; I do not see that it is a punishment; I do not see that it helps rehabilitation; and I do not think that it is much of a penance either. The question is, therefore, why do we do it?"

jailhouselawyer said...

You might be interested in my blog post Chris Grayling's proposals on prisoners votes is unlawful

Indeed, why do we do it? I have not heard any convincing argument.

Harry Barnes said...

John : Thanks. We will see what a mess parliament makes of the issue with their coming votes.

jailhouselawyer said...

Th draft Bill fails to mention voting European elections. Presently prisoner from Scotland has a case before the UKSC on this issue.

Harry Barnes said...

John : The trouble is that the Government are prepared to get themselves into legal trouble over their Bill, because it allows them to do a lot of thub tumping which appeals to many people's prejudices. Labour is then too timid to challenge them and goes along with this rubbish. It also allows the Government to be anti-Europe, by ignoring the fact that the European Court of Justice isn't part of the EU. It is all pathetic politics.