Scotland

Scottish independence: Killers lose referendum vote bid

  • 19 December 2013
  • From the section Scotland
ballot box
The referendum on Scottish independence will be held on 18 September next year

Two murderers have lost a legal battle to win convicted prisoners the right to vote in next year's Scottish independence referendum.

The ban on convicted inmates voting in the referendum was challenged by Andrew Gillon and Leslie Moohan, along with long-term prisoner Gary Gibson.

But Lord Glennie ruled that the judicial reviews brought by the three prisoners must be refused.

Gillon and Moohan are both serving life sentences for murder.

Gibson was jailed for seven years and four months last year for carrying out an armed robbery in Hamilton.

None of the prisoners is due to be released until after the referendum, which will be held on 18 September next year, and as such will be ineligible to vote under the terms of the Franchise Act.

The trio claimed that the blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting in the poll was unlawful and incompatible with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

They also challenged the decision to exclude them from the franchise on the basis of constitutional rights such as the rule of law, right to vote and respect for international obligations.

And they claimed that the blanket ban was contrary to EU law because the result of the referendum would or might lead to the loss of European Union rights.

The European Court of Human Rights has previously held that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is unlawful following a case brought by axe killer John Hirst.

But Lord Glennie said it was his view that the ECHR judgement applied only to parliamentary elections, and did not apply to casting a ballot in a referendum.

The judge said it was quite possible that the Strasbourg court may one day rule that it also protects the right to vote in a referendum.

But he added: "It is, in my view, clear that the point has not yet been reached where a domestic court can say with any degree of confidence that the Strasbourg court will take that step."

Lord Glennie said he had effectively been asked to hold that Westminster in imposing the prisoners' voting ban was acting unconstitutionally, but said that was "an untenable position".

The prisoners had claimed that EU law was engaged because the outcome of the referendum would affect Scotland's membership of Europe and their status as citizens of the EU.

HMP Addiewell
All three prisoners are currently serving their sentences at HMP Addiewell

But the judge said he rejected their argument because "even taking the most benevolent view of the material put before the court there is no direct link between the independence referendum and any decision as to future membership or citizenship of the EU".

In 1998, Gillon was ordered to serve a minimum term of 12 years for the murder of Gary Johnstone, 25, who suffered repeated blows to the head from a spade in Bathgate, West Lothian.

His punishment part period ended in 2010 but he has continued to be detained on the ground of the risk that he poses.

The parole board is not due to look at his case again until 22 September next year - four days after the date of the referendum.

Moohan was jailed for a minimum term of 15 years in 2008 after murdering father-of-two David Redpath, from Peterhead, at a hostel in Edinburgh. He claimed he had performed "the last rites" on the dead body of the former oil worker.

He is not eligible for release until February 2023 at the earliest.

All three prisoners are currently inmates at Addiewell jail in West Lothian.