Three prisoners who took their case to the high court have lost
their battle to overturn the ban on prisoners voting in
Under the European Convention on Human Rights, now in force
through the Human Rights Act 1998, citizens are guaranteed the
right to participate in elections under Article 3 of Protocol 1.
The prisoners claimed that the ban prohibiting them from voting
under the Representation of the People Act 1983 was a breach of
their human rights.
The high court rejected the challenge on 4th April 2001. It was
clear from the caselaw from the European Court of Human Rights in
Strasbourg that an individual could only be disenfranchised in
pursuit of a legitimate aim, which could be the case regarding a
serving convicted prisoner. In addition the means employed to
pursue an aim had to be proportionate, and in this case one had to
look at what Parliament intended.
Parliament had taken the view that convicted prisoners had
forfeited their right to have a say in the way the country was
governed whilst they remained in custody, and this was not the
concern of the courts who could not interfere even in the difficult
cases of post-tariff discretionary life sentence prisoners.
Although the prisoners would be able to vote if they were
released on licence, there was objective and reasonable
justification for their continued custody, the judges said that
their application would be dismissed.
Human Rights Solicitor,