Press release

Government approach to prisoner voting rights

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The government has confirmed proposals for prisoner voting rights which will prevent the most serious offenders from voting.

The government has confirmed proposals for prisoner voting rights which will prevent the most serious offenders from voting.

The move follows a court ruling which the government is obliged to implement.

Under the proposals, all offenders sentenced to four years or more will automatically be barred from registering to vote. Prisoners sentenced to less than four years will retain the right to vote, unless the sentencing judge removes it.

Constitutional Reform Minister Mark Harper said:

The government has brought these proposals forward as a result of a court ruling which it is obliged to implement. This is not a choice, it is a legal obligation. We are ensuring the most serious offenders will continue to be barred from voting.

“If the government failed to implement this judgement, we would not only be in breach of our international obligations but could be risking taxpayers’ money in paying out compensation claims.

The right to vote will be restricted to Westminster Parliamentary elections and European Parliament elections only. If a prisoner is allowed to keep their right to vote, they would do so either by post or proxy. Prisoners will not be registered at the prison, but at their former address or an area where they have a local connection.

A bar on serving prisoners voting was put in place in 1870. In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of John Hirst that the existing ban on prisoners being able to vote was contrary to Article 3, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to free and fair elections.

An announcement will be made to Parliament on Monday 20 December. Legislation will be brought forward next year for Parliament to debate.