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Should prisoners get the vote?

09:37 UK time, Thursday, 10 February 2011

MPs have overwhelmingly voted to keep the ban on prisoners voting, in defiance of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Is voting a privilege or a right?

The House of Commons' decision is not binding, but could put pressure on ministers to go against the Strasbourg court's decision.

Currently no UK prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand, but the ban has been ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.

The government says it has been advised that unless the UK law is changed it could face compensation claims from prisoners costing well over £100m.

Who should be allowed to vote? Should people lose their right to vote when they commit a crime? Have you ever lost your right to vote? What is the law when it comes to voting in your country?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Yet another reason ( if one is needed that is ) to withdraw from the European Convention Of Human Rights.

  • Comment number 2.

    Everyone says voting never changes anything, so does it really matter? Besides I'd imagine lots of people who moan about it never bother to vote themselves.

  • Comment number 3.


  • Comment number 4.

    Serious offenders should not be allowed to vote. Maybe the victims of criminals should challenge the European Court by saying their human rights have been breached.

  • Comment number 5.

    If you wish to exercise your right to vote in the UK then don't break the law and go to prison. How simple is that to understand ?

  • Comment number 6.

    Dead easy. They have the right to vote as soon as their victims have received full restitution for their criminal acts. That way no-one's "human rights" will be infringed. I'm sure the ECHR would be happy with that.

  • Comment number 7.

    Absolutely not. If you commit a crime, ALL rights should be forfeited!

  • Comment number 8.

    Voting is not a right. Quite simply if you break the law which causes an effect to others and you go to prison you should lose all privliges and that includes the vote. The government must refuse to abide to this ruling and refuse to pay out any compensation.

  • Comment number 9.

    Who cares.....
    There are much more important issues to think about at the moment. I would rather see the prisons being filled up with all the scum bags doing the "anti social behavior" (assault, breach of the peace, criminal damage, threatening behavior etc in other words)on estates and while we're at it a few bankers, MP's and war criminals such as Tony Blair. Whether or not they can vote whilst in there concerns me not...

  • Comment number 10.

    Under no circumstances should any prisoner be aloud to vote and under no circumstances should they recieve any form of compensation.

    As far as I'm concerned they lost there rights when they commited a crime worthy of incarceration.

    I would be extremely pleased if we didn't follow the European courts guidance and followed true democratic values by following the will of the people in the UK.

  • Comment number 11.

    It depends on how you see the role of prisons. Is it there purely as a punishment or do they have a responsibility to rehabilitate prisoners. I believe there are some prisoners who can vote such as remand prisoners, fine defaulters and those imprisoned for contempt of court. What you have to consider is these people will one day be released back into society and it`s imperative that they`re enfrachised if we want them to become normal functioning members of society. So is prison for revenge or reform? You decide.

  • Comment number 12.

    If they do will they get to vote in elections in the surrounding constituency? I will be interested to see the candidate who gets elected to the seat that includes Broadmoor Hospital. Now that will make PMs questions more interesting.

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't care much whether prisoners get the vote or not. If under British law they don't, that's fine by me.

    The overturning of British law, and potential compensation for disenfranchised criminals, however, seems utter madness.

    Perhaps we can offset any awards against the costs to society of the claimants' crimes, judicial procedure, and imprisonment.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't understand the logic in saying it's "against prisoner's human rights' not to be able to vote, yet surely it's again their human rights to be locked up against their will in prison isn't it?

    If we followed the 'human rights' argument to its logical conclusion then surely we would be forced to release all prisoners, which would be absurd.

  • Comment number 15.

    Voting is a right that, like liberty, should be denied to a person who, having been convicted/found guilty of a criminal offence, is sentenced to a prison term. This would mean that at least those prisoners on remand in custody should retain the vote. Once again, the supremacy of our own legal system that was surrendered to the authority of the ECHR by the Blair Government, is causing us problems. The Crown in Parliament no longer reigns supreme in this country. What the Wehrmacht failed to do in 1940, our political classes have succeeded in doing. It is a scandal.

  • Comment number 16.

    The debate and result of the vote will demonstarte to what extent the politcians elected by the British public are prepared to back the public's views - which I am presuming will be that a prisoner should not get the vote

    We do not need the European Court of Human Rights and it should have no powers over this country

  • Comment number 17.

    I can't understand the big deal being made of this. We need to comply with international law, and we are signatories to human rights legislation. The time to decide whether prisoners should be allowed to vote or not was way back when. We decided then that they should, and, as we have already made that decision, we need to uphold it. I'm sure the MPs, the meedja, and the usual suspects will be screaming blue murder to make it look as if they're doing something, or to get people riled and flog papers, but it's all rather pointless. Just give them a pencil and a voting slip once every couple of years or so, and it's job done. Over half the 'free' people don't bother so I can't imagine it's going to create too much extra work. From my experience of prisoners, selecting which bland, over-privileged toff to vote onto the gravy train isn't too high on their list of priorities.

  • Comment number 18.

    Initially my reaction was 'why should they, they have done wrong'. Thinking again I'd say 'yes they should'. If you are only locking up a tiny proportion of society, it will have little affect on the outcome and we should have nothing to fear. If you are locking up too many, then you have a problem with what you are locking people up for, you have a civil liberties problem, and those locked up should have the vote.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why should prisoners get a say in who runs the country? By the fact that they are in prison means that they have acted in a way that society does not accept and therefore they have been taken out of society.

    I accept that part of the ideology behind prison is to repatriate them into the community at some time maybe depending on their crime. Until that time they are removed and excluded from being part of their local community & the larger community in general. Why then should they be given a right that people who don't end up in prison have? What other rights would Europe look to give them next?

    We take into consideration far too many of these directives / instructions from Europe in the UK when other EU countries ignore it. We need to stand up to Europe more and now is not a bad time to do so.

  • Comment number 20.

    If this happens then we the lawfull citizens should refuse to vote in any future election, let the prisoners say who runs our country.

  • Comment number 21.

    "Kenneth clarke got the blood boiling yesterday in his usual magisterial way by announcing, in effect, that the Government would meet its obligations regardless of what Parliament says."

    If this is true and the government "meets its obligations" regardless and despite the free vote of a democratically elected parliament then there is no point to parliament and we no longer live in a democracy.

    If the vote goes as expected then David Cameron will have to sack Ken Clarke, derogate from the ECHR (I can tell you now that the court in Strasbourg will not back down) and very likely will be forced to leave the the European Council (being a signatory to the ECHR is a condition of membership) which will be the first step to leaving the EU. Considering the crisis with the Euro then this may be the straw that breaks the Camel's back leading to the break up of the EU.

    All of these are extremely welcome and very positive developments that the vast majority of British pople would wholeheartedly welcome so David Cameron merely needs the genuine political will to back parliament to the bitter end.

    We will, therefore, watch what he does next very closely to ensure that, in the end, all British Courts enforce British Laws that have been passed by a British Parliament elected by British People - what we generally call democracy.

  • Comment number 22.

    Parliament appears to have created more than it's fair share of criminals. Jeffrey Archer was just one pathfinder that thought it was ok to make the rules as well as break them. The recent spate of MPs and Lords being caught out is not unique.
    Petty criminals have the same laisez faire attitude to the rules as these clowns obviously have so why exclude them?

  • Comment number 23.

    This HYS will be no more that an opportunity for all the xenophobes to vent their ill-informed prejudices on all things European. They are unable to distinguish between the ECHR and the EU, or maybe they just don't want to.
    On the subject at hand, my understanding is the ECHR has ruled that a blanket ban on voting rights for prisoners is illegal under the Charter and has required the UK Parliament to consider the issue and decide which category of prisoner should retain their voting rights and which should not.
    Hardly a diktat is it?
    I have always been comfortable with the premise that the deprivation of liberty and the loss of voting rights went with a prison term.

  • Comment number 24.

    No I do not believe they should while they are in custody that should be part of the punishment.

    Having said that after voting in every election for the past 40 years (local and national) I am now so disillusioned with all of the self serving parasites from whatever party I will now never vote again.

    We as a people in this country have been betrayed and backed stabbed by these low life’s (Politicians not prisoners) for decades and I am now at the stage where I do not expect anything from any government or my country and in I will now do nothing to help in return.

  • Comment number 25.

    why is there so much concern about the rights of criminals what about the rights of law abiding citizens ???. If people don't obey the laws of our country,they should lose their vote. The eu law of human rights is nothing but a criminals charter,I only ever hear of criminals gaining from it. Why can't we opt out of it ? we have our own laws,we don't need unelected people in Brussels telling us what to do.Mr Hague should come back from Tunisia which is nothing to do with us and go to the eu parliment and tell them to STUFF their treaty.

  • Comment number 26.

    Just read that there's £100 million compo up for grabs if the Government don't allow prisoners to vote.

    Where is this God-forsaken country going to?

    What am I working my tax-ladden backside off for?

    I give up... I just give up...

  • Comment number 27.

    Absolutely not. Why these stupid European laws have any place in this country is anyone's guess. We need to wake up to common sense here.

    The thought of prisoners being able to have a say in our government is disturbing to say the least. What's next, prisoners being able to run for MP?

  • Comment number 28.

    As an addendun to my previous post the only other adult nationals who cannot vote in general elections are hereditary peers who are members of the House of Lords, life peers, patients detained in psychiatric hospitals
    as a result of their crimes and those convicted in the previous five years of corrupt or illegal election practices.

  • Comment number 29.

    I am puzled as to why the ories are agoinst this measure. I have worked among burglars,thieves and robers and the vast majority of them are Tories,albeit non voting Tories, so this will give them the chance to garner a good constituency.

  • Comment number 30.

    The problem here is sound-bite-thinking.

    I have seen comments along the lines "If you go to prison, you forfeit all of your rights." No, you do not.

    You forfeit your right to liberty - but you do not forfeit your right to life; your right not to be tortured; your right to be reasonably protected by the state; and so on. Imprisonment therefore entails the forfeiture of some of the prisoner's rights, but not others.

    The intelligent debate, therefore, is whether the right to vote should fall into one category or the other.

    It is not a worthwhile contribution simply to say "a prisoner has given up all of his/her rights by committing the crime."

    If you do not want a prsioner to have the right to vote, fair enough, but justify why it should fall into the category of rights of which the prisoner is deprived, rather than the category of rights of which they are not deprived.

  • Comment number 31.

    We have a political system that will stand on the touch line on this arguement, as a way not to upset the many lobbiest, and voluntary agencies on human rights issues. Yet many also have these simple rights removed, and ignored. We may also need to ask ourselves if prisoners can have the vote, why not the people who are in mental hospitals?

    The mental health act, would presume they are in capable of understanding the rerponsibilities, yet the prisoners, have commited crimes knowingly of the consequences. As an ex mental health professional of mental health, I also have met many well educated who have a great insight into politics, and society, yet never allowed that freedom.

  • Comment number 32.

    No way!!

    In my opinion the minute they are convicted they should be exempt from any privledges, that includes the human rights laws and the right to vote.

    Prison life does not seem to be punishment anymore. Inmates have access to tvs, junk food, college courses and do not have the burdon of worrying over how are they going to pay the bills next month.

  • Comment number 33.

    Very easy.... NO
    Why should a criminal have the rights... Soon we'll probably have to pay them a salary!! What a joke Europe is

  • Comment number 34.

    1. At 11:51am on 10 Feb 2011, HaveIGotThatWrong wrote:
    Yet another reason ( if one is needed that is ) to withdraw from the European Convention Of Human Rights.


    Agreed. How long before the ECHR decides that putting criminals in prison is unlawful? Sounds like being a prisoner might become quite lucrative with the prospect of compensation... time for a career change!

  • Comment number 35.

    Those who have been jailed for offences that hav taken away someone elses' human right should not have their same rights protected when they have shown their complete contempt for the whole ethos. The right to vote should be dependant on the crime and voting rights can be removed as part of any sentence given.
    I do not want career criminals voting for who holds the reigns of my country....hold on a minute, I'm from Northern Ireland, the criminals are the ones running it.

  • Comment number 36.

    No, cannot see the point of giving them the vote. They are in prison partly as a punishment and giving them the vote would seem to be an optional toy. Maybe the well behaved ones? As for human rights, you have got to be kidding - we took away their human rights by putting them in a prison so what difference does it make whether they can vote or not. This is a waste of my and everybody elses time and the European Court should have half of its funding removed as it is clearly also a waste of time.

  • Comment number 37.

    I was horrified when I first heard the proposal but now, on reflection it may be a way to encourage a section of society to vote and take an interest in how the country is governed.... or am I being unrealistic?

  • Comment number 38.

    Oh goody. Another excuse for the rabid right to foam and froth at the mouth with righteous indignation about how we are losing our country, while completely ignoring the facts and swallowing whole the anti-European agenda set by Murdoch and the other press barons.

  • Comment number 39.

    Here's a list of human rights:

    •the right to life
    •freedom from torture and degrading treatment
    •freedom from slavery and forced labour
    •the right to liberty
    •the right to a fair trial
    •the right not to be punished for something that wasn't a crime when you did it
    •the right to respect for private and family life
    •freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to express your beliefs
    •freedom of expression
    •freedom of assembly and association
    •the right to marry and to start a family
    •the right not to be discriminated against in respect of these rights and freedoms
    •the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
    •the right to an education
    •the right to participate in free elections
    •the right not to be subjected to the death penalty

    Thankfully, in this country, we don't torture or stone people to death the guilty or innocent, which is the sort of thing you get in countries not subscribing to the above. Giving prisoners the vote doesn't seem to be a big price to pay for the freedoms we all have.

  • Comment number 40.


    The court of human Rights has gone beyond its remit here.

    Putting people in prison itself is a denial of rights (to a family life perhaps); Are the European court going to order the freeing of all prisoners!

  • Comment number 41.

    Cannot help thinking that all this nonsense is being pushed by greedy lawyers hoping to line their pockets at the taxpayer's expense on the back of the yewman rights rubbish

  • Comment number 42.

    Unless we're re-instating the death penalty, then one patently does NOT give up all their rights on committing a criminal act. They retain, at least, the right to life. So shouting for the loss of all their rights is nonsensical.
    I don't like what the greatest majority of criminals have done, and some of their actions make me, personally, feel sick. However, this emotion should not be used to decide a logical argument.

    At the end of the day we have in prison those who are on remand, pending trial (they are innocent until proven guilty), as well as those who are serving a sentence after having been found guilty. Occasionally one of these is later found to have been innocent. So by witholding their human rights while they have been incarcerated we have been acting illegally. This is just one example of why those in prisons should be allowed to vote. As they are there at Her Majesty's leisure, they don't need to be let out to vote - a postal vote for the constituency where they last resided should be sufficient. As has been pointed out, it is extremely unlikely, provided that a sizeable percentage of "free" people get off their couches and vote, that a few prisoners' postal votes will sway the election process. So let's get past this storm in a tea-cup and concentrate on things that actually matter.

  • Comment number 43.

    Casting a vote is a fundamental human right in a democracy equal to or more than the right's of all MP's to claim their expenses. Obviously the brains of the coalition are un comfortable and scared - today its the vote for those in jail, tomorrow no votes for those who are retired, than no votes for people who are un employed - where will these stupid government STOP

  • Comment number 44.

    Why do people think that everyone in prison is a criminal? There have been, and still are, many miscarriages of justice.

  • Comment number 45.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 46.

    Well I'd say NO, but seein as I'm a Scot and a fellow Scot permitted the biggest convicted mass killer of innocents aka Lockerbie to be set free on compassionate grounds, I'm quite sure the UK will have there very own versions of this brand of captains of make these decisions.........

  • Comment number 47.

    12. At 11:58am on 10 Feb 2011, PFC_Kent wrote:
    If they do will they get to vote in elections in the surrounding constituency? I will be interested to see the candidate who gets elected to the seat that includes Broadmoor Hospital. Now that will make PMs questions more interesting.


    Not so, as well as prisoners not being able to vote the ban also extends to lunatics, the main inmates of Broadmoor.

    Back on the subject, lets see, 80K+ prisoners, current No of people voting 50% approx, most prisoners won't be bothered (or as I have heard 1/3 of prisoners are lunatics whether they are in Broadmoore or not).

    So we will have about 20 - 30 thousand prisoners who MAY vote, what for?

    No politician is going to go for the prisoners vote, which will be spread around the country, so in effect negligble.

    So why all the fuss? I could think of a lot of other issues our beloved MP's could take the ECHR to task over.

    Is that just the point? Is it just our MP's trying to get into our good books after the debacle over expenses and the rubbish general election result.

    The phrase 'storm in a tea cup' comes to my mind over this. I certainly am more interested in the decision today over interest rates.

  • Comment number 48.

    If Prisoners - regardless of offence - are not permitted to vote they are completely excluded from society. So, what motive would they ever have to reform or change when they come out again. Most posters on Have Your Say cannot vote in Russia and so do not have a direct interest in that society and might well have no interest in improving Russian society at all.

    That then becomes a harsh treatment of those outside prison when former prisoners leave prison, unreformed (they had no interest in reforming as they had no rights) and carry on much the same as before. It would be more sensible to implement the death penalty for every single offence - large or small - for which prison is an option.

    Which would leave the prisons empty and no need to exclude anybody from democracy.

  • Comment number 49.

    Yet again we are giving "rights" to people who don't deserve it. if murderers remove all of the human rights from another person, including the right to live, then they don't deserve any human rights themselves.

  • Comment number 50.

    If it saves us having to pay compensation, then give them the vote. If they can't get out of jail to reach a polling station, then that's their problem. Then all we have to do is make sure they can't have a postal vote.

  • Comment number 51.

    If their sentence is due to end within the period of the next government, then yes they should.

    This proposal is not going to give the vote to murderers and rapists with 10 years left on their sentence, so can we please stop with this Daily Mail 'hanging is too good for them' rubbish.

    Fact is, when a UK citizen comes out of prison, they are once again a free citizen of the UK, with all the same rights as the rest of us. They will be subject to the new policies, taxes and laws enforced by the government the same as the rest of us and as they such deserve a say.

    If you want to continue to deny basic constitutional rights to British citizens based on crimes they have served their time for, what is the point in releasing them? Might as well just stick everyone in a forced labour camp.

  • Comment number 52.

    Convicted criminals, by their own actions, have lost the rights and privileges to which the rest of us are entitled. So, no votes for prisoners.

  • Comment number 53.

    There are a lot of comments here which say that criminals should not have a vote, a sentiment which I totally agree with. Think about this - a person in prison is denied a vote but that person subsequently found to be completely innocent. The result of the vote led to a "hung parliament" or more likely a "hung council" on top of the former prisoner's illegally denied right to vote.
    The denied right to vote could be dealt with by massive compensation but the vote result would be open to challenge. or are you going to say tough luck

  • Comment number 54.

    Should prisoners get the vote?


  • Comment number 55.

    In all honesty I don't believe that most people in prison should be there in the first place and as such it is difficult to give a straight answer.

    The war on drugs has resulted in thousands of people ending up in prison for something I don't consider to be a crime, namely the possession and distribution of recreational drugs. If prohibition were brought to an end and was replaced with a system of legalisation, regulation and taxation then these people wouldn't be in prison in the first place.

    Up to a third of our prison population are only in prison because the government have closed down our residential mental health institutes and now use prison as a low cost alternative to mental health care so again this is another group of people who should not be in prison in my opinion.

    We therefore need to have a serious debate about who should be in prison in the first place before we're able to decide if those people in prison should be given the vote.

  • Comment number 56.

    The basic premise in voting is that informed citizens, after an adequate time of self education and reflexion, cast a meaningful vote. Voting is an essential building block of democracy and JUSTICE.
    Prisoners housed at a certain facility may be residents of distant communities; if they are allowed to vote, what will be their voting district?
    What about if the prisoners form a considerable voting block of a rural community (in the event the prisoners are allowed to vote in the community where the prison is located); Do candidates have to market their platform to prisoners? What will be the impact on MPs if they have to market their platform to prisoners; will they be making laws in support of prisoners rather than victims?
    Apart from human rights, there are a lot of other important questions that need to be concurrently answered.
    Do the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few?

  • Comment number 57.

    Give them the right to vote. Just dont let them out to the polling stations. Simples.

  • Comment number 58.

    We're missing trick here guys! Why don't we make this work in our favour? Tell the ECHR that, under the guise of 'allowing our poor prisoners access to our wonderful political and democratic system', or 'giving them politcal choice' or something, we will subject them to the full glare of the hustings, complete with every party political broadcast, every speech, every wise word to be issued from our loved and respected Parliament. Piped in all day. Every day. See how much they like it then.

  • Comment number 59.

    No I don't think they should.

    You'll have MP's trying to appeal to prisoners to get their vote.

    That just seems wrong.

  • Comment number 60.

    How much is this costing us the taxpayer?

    By being in prison, they have already been deprived of their "human rights" for the period of their sentence - using the ECJ rulings logic we should therefore not put people in prison?

    I do not see how you can separate out voting from other "human rights"

  • Comment number 61.

    No to votes for prisoners (the admin, the security, the access to hustings just some other consideration)
    No to Strasburg
    No to paying compensation (for what exactly?)

    If we are citizens with European judicial rights, what's the point of having a separate legal system, a law making industry, courts, Crown Prosecution lawyers or any of that expensive civil and criminal legal system? If yes to any of the above, then let's dismantle our legal system root and branch as no longer workable.

    To my own representative government (Ken Clarke is my MP) - bring it on and watch the political climate change next election.

  • Comment number 62.

    Basically NO - When they've paid for the crime and done their time - Then they can vote.

  • Comment number 63.

    I believe that prisoners SHOULD have the right to vote and there is good reason for it.

    The ECHR, as many of you don't seem to know, predates the EU. It was drawn up in the aftermath of WW2, which gives some clue as to why we are having this debate.

    If prisoners were denied the vote and say in ten or twenty years time an authoratarian party came into power (see the rise of the EDF, BNP and UKIP) then all they would have to do is intern large groups of people who they know will vote against them.

    These things do not just happen in Zimbabwe, Russia or China.

  • Comment number 64.

    Should prisoners get the vote?

    Actually, whether prisoners should be able to vote or not is fairly irrelevant.
    The main story here is that British prisoners are disqualified under British Law from voting but the European Court Of Human Rights has declared the ban unlawful.
    That is, unlawful under European legislation, not under British Law.

    British MP's are now going to vote on the issue - question is, how many of them will have the guts to back British Law over what Brussels has to say on a matter which affects only Britain?.
    Even more interesting is what will happen if British MP's vote in favour of retaining the ban? - Will the government have the guts to tell Brussels that this is a matter for the British people and British politicians to decide and we are ignoring what you have to say.
    What will be Brussels reaction to that?

    If we cave in to Brussels demands we might just as well dismantle the entire British political system. If we are unable to legislate for something which is an entirely British matter, which affects nobody outside of Britain then we might just as well not have MP's at all and just let Brussels dictate everything.

  • Comment number 65.

    How many prisoners is this affecting? How many are less than model prisoners due to thier right to vote being removed? I'd suggest that this a very very small percentage of the prison population, let alone the rest of the voting population in the country.

    It's simple. If you've committed a crime that society deems worthy of your removal and incarceration, then for the duration of your stay you do not get to have a say in how that society is run and governed.

  • Comment number 66.

    For some categories of prisoner the knee-jerkers are right: never. But put down your copy of the Sun and think for a minute. You don't need to be a PC hippy to realise that in some cases being able to vote might serve as a reward for good behaviour etc, and actually aid rehabilitation.

  • Comment number 67.

    Forget human rights they are for normal humans, bring back hard labour and corporal punishment for work refusers, only allow them out of their cells for work, meals and educational activities.
    Turn the holiday camps back into prisons as they should be.

  • Comment number 68.

    It's pretty funny that those advocating that we break the law by ignoring the ECHR are the same ones saying that those who break the law have no rights.

    This potential clash of interests is kind of why the ECHR says each member state must have the discussion.

    Still, this HYS post will simply be dominated by xenophobes advocating that we break the laws that our elected politicians signed us up to (right or wrong).

  • Comment number 69.

    There was a time when certain things carried a stigma, single parents, GBH, criminality etc.

    Today there seems to be no shame attached to whatever you do, unless of course you are say a BNP supporter, then the full might of the Liberal establishment comes down on you.

    How many horrific cases of assault, g.b.h murders do we read about ? 100s a month, yet when they catch the criminals they get off with a minimal prison term, normal 7 years or less.

    The concept of punishment has been lost

    In order to attract a long term of imprisonment you have to be found guilty of fraud ££££ MONEY has always been more important than the loss of a life !

    Criminals USED to attract the `label’ jail bird, they were outcasts, but not anymore, so why not give them the vote, they have everything else.

    Of COURSE some criminals do actually WANT to reform, and yes they should be helped.

  • Comment number 70.

    No prisoners should not have the right to vote. Then again if they can get to a local village hall then I dont have a problem with it. If you have been deprived of your liberty by the law and cant make it or cant get back to your home address to send off your postal vote then thats hard cheese.

  • Comment number 71.

    32. At 12:14pm on 10 Feb 2011, chezza100 wrote:
    No way!!

    In my opinion the minute they are convicted they should be exempt from any privledges, that includes the human rights laws


    Are you saying it should be legal to torture prisoners?

  • Comment number 72.

    Initially, I thought - as do many here - that the franchise was one of the liberties that a convict has reliquished by committing the offence for which he has been gaoled. The old "don't do the crime if you cannot do the time" point of view.

    I've changed my mind. Two reasons.

    Encouraging convicts to consider the country and what will be best for it by exercising the franchise could be made a meaningful part of rehabilitation, getting them to think beyond themselves and about society as a whole.

    Secondly, if you believe in universal suffrage, that it is an inalienable right to have a say in the way in which your country is governed, there is no reason to take that right from anyone. Or else we'll have people saying that you cannot vote because you're a drunk, or because you hold some wildly extreme opinions, or because you are unable to walk to the ballot box unaided, or you're a bit long in the tooth, or daft as a bat, or any number of spurious reasons... you do not have to be able to read or write, there is no test as to whether you actually understand what voting is all about, if you are of the correct nationality and age you may vote in your country's elections.

  • Comment number 73.

    I think there are reasons for and against, but the current controversy is more about politics than prisoners, and the last government should not have given our liberty away to Strasburg without a referendum same goes for the EU.

  • Comment number 74.

    The first point to be made is that having the vote is a democratic right, not a privilege handed down to the people by government. Politicians must be reminded that they are our servants, not our masters, and that political sovereignty must ultimately reside with the people.

    On the question of the rights of prisoners to vote, I would suggest that any prisoner that is due to be released before the expected end of the term of office of the government of the day should be allowed to vote. When released prisoners take up a new life 'on the outside', it is only fair that they should have had a say in how the society that they now find themselves in is governed. That vote should be cast in whatever constituency they previously lived in, or will return to on release.

    Otherwise, I don't see the point of prisoners with more than, say, five years to serve being able to vote since they would be voting to influence policies that would have little or no bearing on them on the inside.

  • Comment number 75.

    ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Why should a prisoner be allowed to challenge this? Should he win then let's just do what other EU country's do when they don't agree with the EU ruling IGNORE IT

  • Comment number 76.

    If prisoners were able to vote, which constituency would they be deemed constituents of?
    Could either the residents in their 'home' constituency or those in which the prison stands claim a breach of their human rights if any electoral results are swung by the criminal vote?
    So on both a moral or practical basis, this idea is ludicrus.
    On a lighter note, if the prisoners are deemed constituents of the constituency where the prison's located, and with David Chaytor already banged up and Eric Illsley's punishment still pending, could be a way of getting additional Labour voters into some key marginals!!

  • Comment number 77.

    As an addendum to my previous post, if criminals can continue to sit in the House of Commons, it's only fair that criminals should be allowed to vote for them.

  • Comment number 78.

    No. Prison is meant to punish, and that means losing some of your ordinary rights and liberties.
    If you want the same priviledges as everyone else, don't break the law!

  • Comment number 79.

    Yes give those that will still be inside at the time of the next election a chance of a referendum on whether they want to vote. But also make it clear that like the rest of us they are on a fixed and reduced budget so that the costs of enabling them to have the vote will be met out of the prisoner welfare specific budget. It might mean fewer TVs, or lower quality food and drink, or reduced access to exercise equipment, but the taxpayer cannot meet extra costs. Then let us see if they vote yes/no and we can tell the EU court they decided........

  • Comment number 80.

    Ignoring the suggestion that taking away voting rights is part of a punishment then there are two issues here; one for and one against allowing prisoners to vote.

    If all prisoners are automatically denied a vote prison could be used to subvert democracy. In particular protesters could be sent to prison and then be stripped of the right to vote on the issue they were protesting.

    Democracy could be subverted by moving prison populations to different constituencies (in our current voting system). If most prisoners, or types of prisoner, voted the same way they could either be moved to an already safe seat in order to take away their influence or moved to a marginal seat where their votes could help one party.

    Personally I think they should be allowed to vote, but in a way that does not directly affect the constituency their prison happens to be located in.

  • Comment number 81.

    5. At 11:52am on 10 Feb 2011, HaveIGotThatWrong wrote:
    "If you wish to exercise your right to vote in the UK then don't break the law and go to prison. How simple is that to understand ?"

    Try and spot the flaw in this argument. It's this: you could use it to to justify anything. Let's try:

    If you wish to [insert whatever you like here e.g. "keep your head attached to your shoulders"] then don't break the law.

    So yes, you have got that wrong, "HaveIGotThatWrong".

  • Comment number 82.

    NO, never and under no circumstances.
    Neither should they have the Argos catalogue.

  • Comment number 83.

    I find it both bizzare and irrational that people have such a problem with this.

    Lets put it in simple terms:-

    The Law - The law is interpreted by the judicery.

    Government - Creates new laws based upon votes in the commons.

    Elections - Are when the people get to decide which policies and LAWS that are postulated by each party are the best.

    Prison - A place people get sent who break the LAWS of the day.

    The validity of laws and how they are intepreted is a matter of opinion. So some reasons you might be in prtison are obviously things you could vote about ie:

    legalisation of drugs.

    But more than that, because many of you would say:-

    What about murderers and paedos etc?

    Well even they have a voice that should be heard because whilst they may not be able to vote for a party that would legalise murder they could vote for a party that punishes murders differently.

    It is entirely apt, in fact more so, for prisoners to want to vote and have their voices heard.

  • Comment number 84.

    Absolutely no.
    Firstly it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to vote on these laws since they affected us, the public. Vote denied! Democracy at work I don't think so!
    Secondly in marginal seats, we could have a ridiculous situation where criminals helped vote in a politician, how stupid is that?
    Thirdly, we are a democratic country that recognised centuries ago in law that any jailed criminal forewent all his rights. That must still be the case no matter what some unelected, irresponsible judges come up with subsequently.
    I don't care what the ECHR says, they are wrong. These Human Rights Laws need to be re-written and placed before the public for their scrutiny and vote, that is the correct democratic way.

  • Comment number 85.

    I am puzled as to why the ories are agoinst this measure. I have worked among burglars,thieves and robers and the vast majority of them are Tories,albeit non voting Tories, so this will give them the chance to garner a good constituency.
    And I thought prison offenders were mostly people from council houses, on benefits, often immigrants and those generally unable to read, write and spell? Oh well, there's one sweeping, politically biased generalisation that obviously needs to be replaced by your well researched and balanced theory.

  • Comment number 86.


    This vote today in parliament matters and if it goes the way of common sense - NO - then its a small victory for democracy. If it goes the other way then what point is parliament!

    After all, prisoners are in prison because they have broken laws and therefore lose their freedoms.

    Human Rights laws are supposed to be to prevent things like Darfour, not to impose unelected foreign tyrants over EU states.

    The fightback begins today I hope!

  • Comment number 87.

    29. At 12:12pm on 10 Feb 2011, Brian Brown wrote:
    I am puzled as to why the ories are agoinst this measure. I have worked among burglars,thieves and robers and the vast majority of them are Tories,albeit non voting Tories, so this will give them the chance to garner a good constituency.
    What is the Tories, Moto, what is mine is mine what is yours is also mine, unless you have a income big enough to stop me taking it from you.
    Surly they have a lot incommon with common thieves.
    Thieves gain respectability by running Banks.

  • Comment number 88.

    Depends on how you see prison:

    If it is a punnishment, then no. Simple.

    If it is meant to rehabilitate, then possibly. If someone is due to be released in, say, one year they should be able to vote- banning people from voting will mean that they don't feel like a part of society and so will make them more likely to reoffend. "Why should they help soceity if soceity isn't helping them?".
    People with a long time left to serve shouldn't get to vote.

    Eg. if you will be out (earliest release date) before the next election on the subject, you should be allowed to vote.

    Not sure if i've explained myself very well there!

  • Comment number 89.

    I find it incredible that the UK government ise called upon to grant criminals the right to vote when thousands of British nationals working and living outside the country are denied the basic, human, democratic right to register their votes in the UK general elections! Expatriate citizens of such countries as the USA, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden etc. are authorised to vote in their respective national elections, irrespective of the length of time they have lived outside their home countries. Britain prides itself on its somewhat misplaced reputation as an upholder of human rights. It should correct this grievous case of injustice before granting voting rights to criminals. I am a British national who worked on a British funded project for 32 years, I now live near my former place of work and was denied this right 15 years after living outside my home country.

  • Comment number 90.

    30. At 12:14pm on 10 Feb 2011, Alex wrote:
    "The problem here is sound-bite-thinking.

    I have seen comments along the lines "If you go to prison, you forfeit all of your rights." No, you do not.

    You forfeit your right to liberty - but you do not forfeit your right to life; your right not to be tortured; your right to be reasonably protected by the state; and so on. Imprisonment therefore entails the forfeiture of some of the prisoner's rights, but not others."

    Spot on. Except it's not sound bite thinking. It isn't any kind of thinking at all.

  • Comment number 91.


  • Comment number 92.

    I think everyone should have the opportunity to influence the way the country is governed.
    I think the armed forces, students and prisoners are each groups with identifiable problems specific to them. Each group should have an MP of its own who can then specialise in understanding the issues that affect these groups.
    And as this debate gets more heated lets not forget that over 35% of the eligible population couldn't be bothered to vote at the last three general elections, so many people ranting about this couldn't actually give a damn about the democratic process.

  • Comment number 93.


  • Comment number 94.

    Of course they should along with sky tv and early morning cup of tea brought to their cells.

  • Comment number 95.

    Let's look at this one step at a time

    The act of voting is our way of electing people to represent us in Parliament.

    The sole purpose of Parliament is to ensure the country is run in a way which (supposedly) reflects the views of the people.

    Any changes to the way the country is run has to be done through a change in the law as decided by parliament.

    British people are basically free. We have laws to protect society from extremes of behaviour and to safeguard our wellbeing. Nobody can just lock us away unless we transgress the laws of the land and even then that would only be after a court case.
    This does beg the question - Why should someone who has wilfully ignored the laws of the land be allowed any part in the decision making process of who gets elected to make the laws of the land?.
    Since they have chosen to ignore the law why should they have an interest?

  • Comment number 96.

    Will this include ex and current MPS???? As I think about 400 of them have broken the laws regarding expenses but they got away with a caution. Does Mr Archer get the vote then?

  • Comment number 97.


    The right to vote is a privilege and for hundreds of years, it has been a rule in this country that if you turn your back on the laws of England, then you lose your suffrage.

    Several months ago, I remember listening to some weasely ex-con whining about his human rights being breeched. He was proud that he had managed to get the ECHR to agree to his petition. It turns out that that he had done a long sentence for manslaughter. Feel free to finish the rest of this paragraph yourself.

    The government MUST VOTE NO.
    No to letting prisoners vote. Not put "less than six months" caveats, but a blanket NO. If if the EHCR suggests that we have to pay compensation, we should say get stuffed and go back to what works best for Britain.

    My father and his father fought in two world wars to ensure that British people are free. Free to say what we want, free to elect who we want and freedom to make our own laws.

    The European Court of Human Rights is NOT elected by us and therefore should have no hold over us. Cameron should pull us away from its clutches. It serves no real purpose to Britain, because we already have a far fairer moral code than many of the ECHR adherents. We don't need it and don't want it.

    All it does is make legal people richer, home and abroad. I'd nationalise every solicitor tomorrow. In my book, they are parasites.

  • Comment number 98.

    From past experience of HYS discussions of crime and punishment the majority of posts will share with me a strong retributivist approach, requiring severe sentences that match severe crimes. Alternative theories of punishment deterrant and reformative - are only contingently related to the crime, as benefits to society and the individual are not necessarily connected to the punishment. We can deter by punishing the innocent, and reformist methods - softly softly - might well benefit the innocent who want to be made into even better persons.

    Retribution theory recognises the logical connection between the crime and the punishment, and sees the criminal as a rational being who is aware of the wrong that he/she has committed. Consequently the criminal as a rational being should anticipate a harsh sentence for a serious crime.

    However, criteria for enfranchisement is based on the recognition that the voter is a rational being. This was fought for by women who were not regarded as rational by the men who ran the system. Later we sensibly lowered the voting age to include young people who are deemed rational. Accordingly by giving the vote to prisoners we recognise their rationality, and accordingly we recognise their ability to be aware of the consequences of their misdeeds.

    My conclusion: a retributionist theory of punishment - with severe punishment for serious crimes - recognises that the rational criminal should be able to vote.

    This is not an rights based argument so I am not arguing for the prisoners right to vote.

  • Comment number 99.

    In principle the answer should be NO. To have rights you must earn them by living within the rules of society.

    In reality does it really matter?

    There are probably many times more crooks and villains across the whole of society living free and who can vote that it’s seems a pointless exercise, almost a distraction.

    My real concern is with crime set to rise due to rising unemployment and cost of living that our government are cutting back on the police, courts and prisons.

  • Comment number 100.

    And straight in at No. 25 It's Adrian, who wrote:
    "why is there so much concern about the rights of criminals what about the rights of law abiding citizens ???."

    I'm surprised that this old chestnut didn't surface until no. 25. The fact that you are not worried about your human rights means that they are not being infringed.


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