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ECHR rules on prisoner voting
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has given its judgment on the issue of prisoner voting, saying that it is up to Member States to decide how to regulate the ban on prisoners voting, but that an automatic and indiscriminate disenfranchisement of all serving prisoners, irrespective of the nature or gravity of their offences, such as exists in the UK, is incompatible with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
However, it accepted the UK Government’s argument that each State has a wide discretion as to how it regulates the ban, both as regards the types of offence that should result in the loss of the vote and as to whether disenfranchisement should be ordered by a judge in an individual case or should result from general application of a law.
The Court did not consider it appropriate to give guidance as to the content of future legislative proposals, which was a decision for the Government. However, it took the view that the lengthy delay to date demonstrated the need to set a timetable for the introduction of proposals to amend the electoral law in the UK.
The Court has therefore given the UK Government six months to bring forward legislative proposals to amend the law.
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