[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment; press release] Tuesday that UK prisoners who had been prevented from voting are not entitled to receive compensation for their legal costs. The 1,015 petitioners are current or ex-prisoners whom the Representation of the People Act of 1983 [text] prevented from voting in all elections held in 2009, 2010 and 2011. They claimed that this law violated Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) to the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] and that they should be monetarily compensated for the costs and expenses of the lawsuit. The court ruled that the law does violate the convention but that no compensation was due because this case was nearly identical to other prisoner voting rights cases in which the court has never awarded compensation and laid out clear protocol to that effect. The UK government is not planning to take any further action [Guardian report] on prisoner voting before the next general election in May.
The controversy over UK prisoner voting rights stems from a 2005 case filed by John Hirst, who had been sentenced to life in prison for killing his landlord. Hirst claimed he should be able to vote while in prison, and the ECHR agreed, ruling [judgment, PDF] that the ban breached Hirst’s human rights. In March 2011 the UK government commenced legal measures to overturn an ECHR ruling [JURIST reports] that declared the UK’s ban unlawful. The government requested that the ECHR decision in Greens and MT v. the United Kingdom [JURIST report] be appealed to the Grand Chamber [official website] of the court, believing it may reverse the precedent that grants prisoners the right to vote. In October 2013 the Supreme Court of the UK upheld [JURIST report] the law that banned inmates from voting. In August the ECHR ruled [JURIST report] that the UK ban violates prisoners’; human rights. JURIST guest columnist Richard Edwards of the University of the West of England Bristol Law School described [JURIST op-ed] the “constitutional crisis” facing the UK over prisoner disenfranchisement.