You are here

Prisoners denied the vote may appeal to Grand Chamber over damages

29 November 2010

Prisoners who won a strongly worded judgment from the European Court of Human Rights last week condemning the UK's failure to allow them to vote may appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber in a bid to secure damages.

A chamber of seven at the ECtHR said the UK’s continuing failure to introduce legislation was “not only an aggravating factor” in terms of its responsibility for past and present human rights breaches, but also represented “a threat to the future effectiveness of the Convention machinery”.

Giving judgment in Greens and MT v the UK (applications nos. 60041/08 and 60054/08), the court gave the UK government a six-month deadline to introduce legislation bringing its law in line with the Convention.

However, it rejected the prisoners’ arguments that they should be awarded damages, saying that the court’s findings amounted to “just satisfaction”.

Tony Kelly, partner at Taylor & Kelly solicitors in Coatbridge, near Glasgow, acted for the two men, both inmates of Peterhead prison in Scotland.

Kelly said that although he was pleased by the chamber’s judgment, in terms of the direction of travel, he was considering an appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber.

He said he “could not see the reason” why the prisoners had not been awarded damages.

Kelly said he was also disappointed that the chamber had failed to find a breach of article 13 of the Convention, on the grounds that his clients were denied an “effective remedy”, since all the domestic courts could offer them was a declaration of incompatibility.

He added that he hoped the Grand Chamber could hear the case next year.

The chamber of seven held last week that the UK had failed to comply with its earlier Grand Chamber judgment in Hirst v UK in 2005, which also found that the UK had violated article 3 of protocol 1.

The article says that parties to the Convention should “undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”.

In the meantime the court said it would “discontinue its examination” of all similar applications from UK prisoners. The court did not specify exactly what steps the UK government should take to comply with the Convention.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which intervened in the case, said the ruling “underlines the necessity” for the UK to implement Strasbourg’s decisions.

Kelly described the 2,500 applications from convicted prisoners in the UK complaining about their lack of voting rights received by the ECtHR as a “drop in the ocean” when compared with the total prison population of over 70,000.

“There is no reason why all these prisoners could not apply.

“A change in the law is long, long overdue. I don’t know what purpose is served by removing prisoners from the franchise other than to pander to public opinion.

“This is a historic relic going back to the days when we shipped people off to Botany Bay.”

Categorised in:

Company, Consumer, and Contract Trade Police & Prisons