Yesterday, for the fourth time, the European Court of Human Rights ruled again that the UK is in breach of human rights by having a blanket ban on allowing convicted prisoners serving a custodial sentence the right to vote: it’s nearly ten years now since the UK was first ordered to make some change in this ban, and neither Labour nor Conservatives have cared to do so. (The ECHR has made no order for monetary compensation, which is the only thing likely to move either party.)
In October 2014, there were 7,755 prisoners serving a custodial sentence in Scotland: the imprisonment rate in Scotland is 147 out of 100,000 people (via the Howard League). Since August 2010, there has been a statutory presumption against convicted criminals being sentenced to short periods of imprisonment, unless the court can show reason why this should be so. From the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010
“a court must not pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term of three months or less on a person unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate.”
If a person goes to jail, it will under most circumstances be because they committed an offence that the court decided mandated a sentence of four months at least. The general rule for any sentence of 12 months or less is that a prisoner will be released automatically on probation after they have served half their sentence.
On Wednesday 8th July 1914, the Manchester Guardian published an editorial against the practice of force-feeding imprisoned suffragettes, as well as two petitions addressed to the Liberal Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna:
We publish to-day two reasoned and powerful pleas, the one from distinguished Free Church ministers, the other from a large number of medical men, against the practice of forcible feeding still persisted in by the Home Secretary, although the “Cat and Mouse” Bill was understood to have been passed as a substitute for a practice which public opinion rightly and with increasing urgency condemns.
Both petitions are addressed to the Home Secretary, and will, we trust, carry weight with him, and at least secure the interview for which the medical men ask and which the gravity of the case and the weight of the protest should make it difficult to refuse.
Forcible feeding, as carried out against resisting prisoners, is frankly a form of torture, and it is really as such that Mr. McKenna, so far as we understand his position, defends it. He says it is deterrent, and so it well may be, but so would be any other form of torture – the thumbscrew or the rack, or any other ancient and accredited method of inflicting intolerable pain; yet we do not now have resort to these methods, not even against women.
By Friday 23rd November, MPs will have to decide whether the UK should be in defiance of an ECHR ruling or David Cameron.
David Cameron says:
“no-one should be in any doubt: prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.”
Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a QC who sits on the Commission on a Bill of Rights, said
offering a ban was merely political posturing, and it was inevitable prisoners would get the right to vote.
Asked if the Government would have to the vote to prisoners in some form, he told The Daily Telegraph: “Of course – either that or we are in the same position as in Greece under junta. Greece had to leave the Council of Europe.
Please note that it’s not even a question that “all prisoners must have the vote” – it’s perfectly legitimate to ban some prisoners from voting. Continue reading
On Twitter this morning someone asked:
Alex Salmond? Votes for Scots overseas but not those in England… Isn’t that rather Racist? Do I with English parents get a vote?
Whatever Scottishness is, the Scottish National Party escaped the all-white-with-tartan-troosers definition long ago: Continue reading