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Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill (Draft) 2012-13

Pending bill

(This Bill is from a previous session)

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Summary

  • Type of Bill:

    Government Bill

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Summary

A Bill to outline whether prisoners in the United Kingdom would be entitled to vote in general, local and European elections.

The draft Bill contains three options for Members of Parliament to consider on prisoner voting:

•    A blanket ban on all prisoners

•    Entitling prisoners serving four years or less to the vote

•    Entitling prisoners serving six months or less to the vote

Currently, there is a United Kingdom-wide blanket ban on voting for all prisoners, unless on remand. The decision to introduce this draft bill comes on the eve of a deadline set by the European Court of Human Rights, following an eight year legal battle. In 2005, the European Court of Human stated that individual countries were allowed to determine which prisoners should be denied the vote but declared that a widespread ban was illegal.

As part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament is to be established and will scrutinise the measures for a period of six months to decide whether or not prisoners serving four years or less or six months or less would be entitled to vote.  Following the committee's examination of the measures, the government will then be expected to implement the recommendations and introduce a Bill to parliament.

In February 2011, Members of Parliament backed overwhelmingly the retaining of a blanket ban on voting for prisoners by 234 to 22.

Despite the government introducing this draft Bill, the majority of the House are expected to vote in favour of a blanket ban for prisoners, with the Prime Minister describing the prospect of giving prisoners the vote, making him feel "physically ill".

The Labour Party support a blanket ban on prison voting but have criticised the government for previously introducing plans to give prisoners serving four years or less the right to vote.