Murdered child's mother hits out at prisoners' vote

Image caption,
David Cameron has said the idea of prisoners voting makes him 'physically ill'

The mother of a murdered child has spoken out as the killer went to the Court of Appeal to fight for the right to vote.

Peter Chester is serving life for raping and strangling his seven-year-old niece, Donna Marie Gillbanks, in Blackpool, Lancashire, in 1977.

Donna's mother June Gillbanks said she would be writing to the prime minister.

Earlier, David Cameron said he felt "physically ill" at the idea of giving prisoners the vote.

Mrs Gillbanks said she would be writing to Mr Cameron and asking him "to look after people like me, the victims, instead of the criminals".

"Where are my daughter's human rights?" she added.

The appeal court hearing comes a day after the government admitted it had no choice but to give prisoners the vote because of a European court ruling - made five years ago - which deemed the ban unlawful.

Mr Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday that he had to abide by the decision even though it was "painful".

He said the UK had to "come forward with proposals" as the ban could cost taxpayers up to £160 million.

Chester was given a 20-year minimum tariff by the judge who sentenced him but he has served 33 years in jail.

He is currently in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire but was in Wakefield prison in West Yorkshire when he tried to register to vote and was refused by the local electoral registration officer.

But, with the assistance of legal aid, he appealed against a High Court rejection of his claim he was entitled to vote.

James Eadie QC, appearing for the Justice Secretary, told the court on Wednesday the government accepted current UK legislation was not compatible with the European convention and new legislation was needed to replace it.

Media caption,
Former prisoner John Hirst speaking to Andrew Neil in November 2010

He said the concept of prisoners voting raised "deep-seated philosophical difficulties" which were politically controversial and were matters for Parliament.

Chester's barrister, Hugh Southey QC, said there was no dispute that the ban was a "blunt instrument" which breached the human rights convention.

He urged the Court of Appeal to rule the government was wrong not to register Chester for Parliamentary and European elections.

Mr Southey used the legal precedent of John Hirst's case - Hirst, another convicted killer, won a key ruling in 2005 that an outright ban on prisoners voting was unlawful.

During Wednesday's hearing Lord Justice Laws said: "Some people say that (the view) that a person who commits a pre-meditated murder has so far turned his back on the company of good citizens that to give him the vote is repugnant to good citizens is a viable point of view."

Reserving judgment, Lord Neuberger said the court would take time before making a ruling.

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