Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Prisoners Votes Is Wrong

Guido and Michael Heaver have already posted this, but it is so disgusting that as many people as possible should view it. This is John Hirst. He killed his landlady by putting an axe in her head. He was given 25 years for manslaughter. [UPDATE: A commenter points out it was 15 years but he seerved 25 years because of bad behaviour]. He gets very upset if you call him a murderer. He is now out of prison on licence.

Over the last few years he has conducted a campaign through the courts to persuade the government that it has to comply with European legislation and give prisoners the vote. According to the Telegraph this morning he has now succeeded.

In this video he is filmed (by himself) celebrating. He lights up a spliff. I wuld have thought that was a very dangerous thing to do for a prisoner out on licence. But what do I know.

What I do know is that giving prisoners the vote is fundamentally wrong. When you are sent to prison you lose your liberty and you lose some fundamental rights along with it. The right to vote has always been one of those rights. I dread to think how prisoners can now be put on the electoral roll. If it's done on residence, then the prisoners' vote in some constituencies will be absolutely crucial - Sittingbourne & Sheppey being one. Imagine being a candidate and trying to campaign in a prison. Laughable, isn't it?

And doesn't this decision show beyond all doubt that we have lost control of our own legal system?


................................. said...

"He gets very upset if you call him a murderer"

So, what's the going to do about... oh yes, I see your point.

The Last Of The Few said...


Point of fact here and trivial I know but relevant to this mans psyche.

He was actually given 15 years for the crime but served 25. The reason for the extra 10 was his bucking the system, battles with authority, failure to comply, unruly behaviour and general ability to be a complete shit.

The extra 10 strech may well explain his thought pattern on life in general.

He was on radio 5 this am and I had to turn it off for fear of smashing the radio !!!

Anonymous said...

This is down to the European Convention of human Rights - established c 1950 by the Council of Europe.

What do you propose Mr Dale? No point ranting - offer a solution.

If you can put forward a solution where our diplomatic ability is strengthened by either ignoring withdrawing or being expelled from the Council of Europe then please elaborate.

The world ... tsk ... what a dumb place it is. Where shall we move to? Do tell us.

Simply wimping 'this is wrong' is not good enough.

Right Hon. said...

Oh please... can't you find something more worthwhile to get all indignant about?

Your average prisoner couldn't care less about whether they can vote or not. If fact let's really punish them and insist they vote and make them sit through hours of party political broadcasts. Most MPs are crooks so it has a pleasing symmetry to it.

Mark Taylor said...

Our of curiosity, while you were writing this post did you ever consider making an argument rather than posting an emotionally provocative video, stating your opinion as fact and assuring us that because something has always been the case, it is right?

graybo said...

28 other European countries allow prisoners to vote - I don't hear the French or Germans finding this to be a particular problem.
Also, when did you last hear a tealeaf say "I'd best stop breaking and entering, I might lose my vote!" before they smashed in your front window?
Please, get some perspective on this issue. Whilst the man who has brought this campaign to fruition is clearly altogether unpleasant, I think there are other issues concerning prisons which merit greater outrage.

Dick the Prick said...

Just seen him on ITV with Doogie Carswell and he was wittering on about Blighty being a rogue state! Hmm....isn't there some social contract thingy? Not good, not good at all.

Simon Lewis said...

Yes yes yes Iain. You are so so right. Why are the government not opposing this. They oppose other good measures but don't stop this. We should just ignore the European Parliament like the French do.

Anonymous said...

While I am no fan of Mr Hirst, and in no way wish to condone his behaviour, in that video or in the past, I absolutely welcome the recognition of the right to vote for prisoners.

The right to vote is a basic human right, and provides the foundation for the legitimacy of our democracy. Prisoners retain their humanity, and their citizenship, and so shouldn't lose this basic right to have a say in how society is run. Yes, there is an argument that their crimes represent an implicit rejection of society and its' values, but I don't buy that. Does a highly addicted drug addict have the cognitive capacity to make a rejection of social norms, or are they just trying to get their next fix? Can we not shoulder some of the blame for crime as a society, or do we just pretend that we have no part in affecting the lives of others? Is a battered woman who kills her husband after years of abuse really rejecting society?

Also, Mr Hirst is incorrect: murderers, rapists and paedophiles are not going to get the vote. The Hirst (No.2) judgment (if you'd took the time to read it) confirms that the outright prohibition on prisoners right to vote is arbitrary and thus illegal. It is likely that a more moderate scheme will be introduced, where dangerous offenders would not be able to vote, but those in prison for lesser offences would. Also, the existing rules on disqualifications by virtue of some offences, and disqualification by virtue of a lack of mental fitness would still apply.

All in all, Mr Dale, the issue, and possible changes, are not as clear cut as you portray.

johnpaul said...

The IRA considered themselves fighting a war ,so surely they looked as prisons as prisoner of war camps,are we going to let peoplewho take others right to life away by giving them the right to vote for people opposed to their crimes

Nigel said...

>>Prisoners Votes Is Wrong<<

Is that because it ought to be "Prisoners' Votes Are Wrong" ?

In any event, I'm not entirely convinced by your argument on this one (and it's an issue on which I haven't got a strong opinion either way).
The video you post demonstrates that the individual concerned is pretty repulsive, but that is irrelevant to his right (or otherwise) to vote.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Yes it does.


Jimmy said...

"What I do know is that giving prisoners the vote is fundamentally wrong. When you are sent to prison you lose your liberty and you lose some fundamental rights along with it. The right to vote has always been one of those rights."

Isn't that an entirely circular argument?

London25 said...

The UK boasts its work within Human Rights, Prisoners/ Offenders already have the right to have a television in their cell, the right to constant healthcare, the right against discriminatio, the right to education and many more besides. They get this all for free and also get an allowance upon release as well as assitance with finding work and accomodation when released.

Giving the "less serious" offenders the right to vote even though society has deemed them unfit to be in society is not that much of a leap, the offenders that are doing a small amount of time should really have a say who is to be running the government when they are released.

I am confused as to the huge uproar, we are a modern country, if Human rights are not to be followed then we may as well bring back the death penalty and other forms of punishment such as the severing of limbs for particular offences.

You cannot be a country that accepts Human Rights and not accept what Human Rights are to every human.

Paddy Briggs said...

The issue is about citizenship. As a citizen you have certain rights. If you go to prison one of those rights is curtailed - you lose your liberty for a time. But you are still a citizen. So the question is whether in addition to the loss of liberty a prison sentence brings other punishments with it. As the law stands it doesn’t – except in exceptional cases. If every citizen has a vote, and prisoners in jail are citizens, then they should have the vote as well.

no longer anonymous said...

Agree completely. The right to vote for prisoners is not a human right. It isn't in the American Bill of Rights, it's not in our Bill of Rights and when the ECHR was being drawn up I doubt the drafters had prinsoners' voting rights in mind.

Duncan said...

Are you on a mission to prove the equivalence of blogging and journalism by posting tabloid sensationalism and passing it off as political comment?

Roland Deschain said...

And doesn't this decision show beyond all doubt that we have lost control of our own legal system?

Well, yes, but after jumping up and down a bit, just what are the Conservatives going to do about it?
Nothing, as usual, bar the ritual harrumphing.

cornyborny said...

"And doesn't this decision show beyond all doubt that we have lost control of our own legal system?"

Well, yes.

Tragic and wrong and entirely foreseeable (just like the overwhelming majority of other state-inflicted woes we put up with daily). So what are the 'Conservatives' going to do about it?

Oh, right.

south said...

Just where do their votes get counted? It might change the balance in a few constituencies if 1-2 thousand male lowlifes suddenly appear on the role. Can guarantee a prospective MPs will soon work out where to efficiently campaign for a fat block of votes, at least you know they are in when you visit.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Why oh why do we take any notice of this so called European court. It has NO relevance to this country, its members are not even judges they are for the most part left wing law lecturers...yet they are able to overturn a BRITISH law valid since the 14th Century..

Quite simply time for us to leave these Euro Bozos to their own devices. UKIP must be rubbing their hands!!!!

Anonymous said...

This proposal was in the Liberal Democrats general election manifesto.

It won't cut reoffending. Most criminals (including reoffenders) had the right to vote when they broke the law.

This isn't like denying women or black people the vote. Criminals are being denied the vote as a consequence for breaking the law.

SadButMadLad said...

The ECHR is not part of the EU but a seperate european organisation and created by the Council of Europe not the European Union (pedantic point).

What the ruling states is that there shouldn't be a blanket ban on prisoners voting. It should be done on a crime by crime basis.

So as many would probably agree, major crimes like murderers shouldn't get the vote in prison. But what about those in prison for defaulting on a ASBO? What about those in prison whilst their court case is being sorted out. There are many minor crimes where the issue becomes a bit greyer.

All that needs to be done to keep the status quo and not allow any prisoner to vote is to list all the crimes on the book and mark them as exempt from voting. Not a blanket ban then as each crime is listed.

JuliaM said...

"And doesn't this decision show beyond all doubt that we have lost control of our own legal system?"

Indeed. The sort of thing a Conservative government cannot let stand. Its line in the sand. So I look forward to Dave's vow to take back control of it and...

Ah. Right.

As I thought.

Lord Blagger said...

Let them vote. In person, in the Orkeys.

Might be a bit of a problem getting out of jail to vote.

The serious point. It's not been more than a couple of days, and already Cameron is transferring powers to the EU to decide on who is or isn't eligible to vote.

So, lets have a UK law. Compliance with EU law is paid for by the EU. We just deduct the expense from the money sent to the EU.

Subsidiarity at work

Twig said...

So, who has control of the UK legal system if not the UK government?

Goodwin said...

Surely the problem isn't the votes from the crooks in prison, it's the votes from the crooks in Parliament who can do far more harm? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Yebbut, if you accept that there are at least some responsible and/or contrite convicts, to say nothing of those wrongly convicted, the case could be made that they are entitled to vote for the future; if not for themselves, in the case of long-sentence inmates, then for their families.

I really can't get upset by this. It seems to be a very enlightened and humanitarian proposal with little downside. How do the victims of crime suffer as a consequence? Where do you stop: no hot water for prisoners, no mattresses, no letters, no visits, no puddings, no TV? Given how liberal prison has become, it seems only a trivial step to allow them the fractional dignity of a vote.

Wallenstein said...

Is it just those in prison? What about someone who has e.g. several convictions for drink driving? Are they the sort of person we'd want exercising their vote, even though they are not in prison?

Why not extend the ban to anyone who's been convicted of a crime?

mad albert said...

@ the last of the few - Anger management problem? Lol.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we can comply with the ECJ ruling by giving prisoners the vote as long as they vote in person in the constituency where they were last resident :-)

Also, haven't heard any mention of the LibDem influence on this policy decision - wasn't votes for prisoners one of their more loopy policies?

Matt Oliver said...


Not surprisingly, we respectfully disagree (I have not watched the video - I regard that as a different matter entirely).


As an alternative to a blanket ban the Government could choose to look at the French model, where a judge decides on whether the prisoner loses the right to vote depending on what crime they commit.

In answer to your question as to how it would work, when the last Government consulted on this issue, their view was that the address the prisoner should give on the registration form would be the address at which they last resided before they were imprisoned, and/or would reside when they left prison. It was also preferred that they vote by post.

Matt Oliver

FF said...

I don't feel particularly strongly in practice about whether prisoners should vote: democracy can manage without their votes. However, in principle I don't think it's wrong for prisoners to have the vote.

In general, universal suffrage should be just that - it's not good to muck around with it. And while prisoners will have particular rights curtailed - obviously including their freedom of movement - restrictions shouldn't be arbitrary. In other words, they can hang onto their rights unless they are specifically denied to them as part of their punishment.

haddock said...

there are some MPs who should be in prison for helping themselves to our money, perhaps they could be sent there for a while to do some campaigning..

it took you a while to realise what a shit that man is, didn't it ?

Ben said...

Indeed we have lost control of our own laws.

A good number of those people who it is proposed will be enfranchised should have been executed for their crimes.

Unsworth said...

Well you have several points but, on a matter of administration, in which constituencies will these prisoners be placed on the electoral roll? Their former place of residence, their current place of incarceration, or where?

And what happens when, for example, a spouse of a detainee moves home or chooses to live with someone else or whatever? There are far too many imponderables, but if prisoners are allowed to vote in the constituencies of their incarceration that ought to lead to a redrawing of boundaries.

Military personnel are allowed to vote by post - usually in the constituencies where they are based. However, postal voting from places like Helmand has been an administrative shambles. It can take as long as twelve days for ballot papers to arrive, thereby effectively disenfranchising thousands of troops. Why is there no ECHR ruling on this aberration?

I listened to Hirst's posturing on the BBC this morning with considerable contempt. He failed monumentally to explain the legal or moral position. Hardly surprising, I suppose.

Salmondnet said...

Yes. We clearly have lost control of our legal system. Will the predominantly Conservative coalition government do anything about it? So far as can be ascertained, absolutely not. Meanwhile we are also beginning to lose control of our ever-diminishing defence forces in order to pay for an increase in the aid budget.

Vote blue, get yellow, in at least two senses.

Anonymous said...

What the European Court of Human Rights declared unlawful was the blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting.

What could well happen is the law is amended to say that all prisoners serving a term less than 4 or 5 years will be allowed to vote, and those above that will not.

I gather that's a system used elsewhere in the world, and gets round the 'blanket ban' ruling.

Caron said...

I tend to look on prison as something which is there to restore someone to being capable of participating as a responsible citizen.

I think the punishment is locking them up and depriving them of their liberty. I think that voting, which is something that all responsible citizens should do should be encouraged in prison.

Being in prison deprives you of your liberty so you can pay back your dues to society. It doesn't deprive you of your humanity.

Maybe the reason that we have such a high level of re-offending when people come out of prison is that we fail to rehabilitate them on so many levels.

Giving them the vote isn't going to cure that, but it's only part of a package of measures which urgently needs to be done to make us all safer.

And as for the bloke in the video, I expect that people on those sorts of sentences will be excluded.

The issue has been that we have a blanket ban on prisoners voting. What the Government should have done yonks ago is to allow all prisoners on sentences of, say, less than 5 years, the right to vote and this judgement would not have happened.

For what it's worth, I probably go with the idea that you just give the vote to everybody. It's easier that way - and you can link it to where they last lived so you don't have the Wormwood Scrubs vote, or whatever swinging a particular seat.

Surely you'd agree that the old lady in jail cos she can't pay her Council Tax shouldn't miss her chance to vote? Really?

Anoneumouse said...

Just as a matter of interest does anyone know which lobby Stephen Timms graced during the vote on the Human rights Bill

Brian said...

Give those prisoners who pay for their accommodation costs the vote but don't count them.

Tor Hershman said...

Hey, over here, across the pond, a whole lotta us think that The Prisoner is a fine show and votin' for it is GREAT!

Oh, wait a sec.....that ain't what you're talkin' about.

Oh well, moi gotta run now and NOT go out and participate in the Theocratic Oligarchy’s Punch & Judy Show (a.k.a. Elections) today.

I bet this comment doesn't get approved.

Stay on groovin' safari,

Libertarian said...

Paddy Briggs

In the country in which I live ( England) we don't have citizens we have subjects. It's a constitutional monarchy.

Prisoners are subjects and they are banged up at Her Majesty's pleasure.

David Lindsay said...

If we returned to the situation whereby we could safely assume that almost everyone convicted deserved to be, and where there was far less crime anyway due to proper policing, then no one would be suggesting this. We could also have proper sentencing, and a proper regime for the far fewer people who were in prison.

That is the problem, in this instance, with the Lib Dems, the party that wants to give Ian Huntley the vote. They are quite good on civil liberties, but fail to see that that stand in incomprehensible and meaningless unless it is part of a package otherwise comprised of real policing, real sentences and real prison discipline. That last, at least, excludes the right to vote.

We also urgently need to legislate for the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, or of the European Court of Justice, or of the "Supreme Court" if it strikes down or otherwise compromises the Statute Law, or under the Human Rights Act under the same circumstance, unless ratified by a resolution of the House of Commons. Ed Miliband, over to you.

Carl Eve said...

Hmmm... so Jeffery Archer and Jonathon Aitken wouldn't have been allowed to vote...

Stand for MP? oh yes... but vote... oooooh, no...


Working its way through the NZ parliament is a bill to ban all prisoners from voting.
Current law is anyone who is serving 3 years or more cannot vote.
But the real issue is, who rules Britain?
Our parliament or the European Court?

Brian said...

Please take the opportunity to acquaint yourdself with the British Nationality Act 1981. We are citizens.
Put simply,"At Her Majesty's Pleasure" refers to indefinite sentences in prison or secure hospital (when an insanity plea is accepted) for serious offences where there is a high chance of reoffending and for juveniles instead of a life sentence. The offender is reviewed periodicaly and only released when assessed as safe so to do,

Lady Finchley said...

It really is a moot point - how many prisoners voted before they went inside - not many I'd wager. Not exactly model citizens. Still, it sticks in the craw and I am appalled by the laissez faire attitude of the people commenting.

David Anthony said...

Who gave Gollum the vote?

AndrewSouthLondon said...

So Ian Huntley, notwithstanding the loss of votes of the two girls you killed, how will you be voting? And how might they have voted, if they had still been alive, but for you killing them

As always, the EU/lawyer mafia is only about the rights of muderers, not the rights of us not to be murdered.

I'll gladly chip in for the Piano-wire Fund if that's what it will take to rid us of these accursed self-serving "lawyers" (Yes I'm looking at you Tony Blair)


What Cameron should have done was this said to the EU "i am a conservative PM, my party was the party of law and order in the UK AND THIS WILL DISGUST 99.999% OF THE UK PUBLIC.I double dare you to call my bluff on this and ill tell the British public i am pulling out of the EU lock stock and barrel.We will pay a fine and you will give it back to me on the sly,or work some other way to get this to vanish or i will pull out of the eu and you will get £0".The tory public would have jumped for joy he would have been a hero,but he sold out,gave EU 2.9% no referendum ,gave the sas to the French ,MURDERS GETTING VOTES ,whats next

sorry but Dave was all mouth before he became PM ,now he is Dave the cave in HE IS FAST BECOMING A TOTAL JOKE


Steve H said...

A basic principle ought to be that if we allow the state the power to deprive someone of the vote, it's too dangerous. The dangers certainly outweigh the short term satisfaction some seem to get from finding yet another way of punishing prisoners.

You seem to contradict yourself when you say that they deserve to lose some fundamental rights. If they are rights which can be removed, they can't be fundamental rights, can they?

The question of where prisoners would be registered is a good one but surely not insuperable. But the worst thing you say, Iain, is almost a throwaway remark - imagine how hard it'd be to canvass in prisons. Yes, it wouldn't be so easy to trot out a dog whistle, hang em and flog em manifesto, would it?

Mostly Ordinary said...

Can we take away their TVs to pay for it?

Doubting Richard said...


I agree with you in principle. Unfortunately I agree with prisoners' votes in practice, and your terrible attitude to Ben's Blog is one of the reasons.

If even at your level of political influence with little accountability you cannot accept Ben's Blog as a level of representation, and understand the righteous condemnation he has given of the prison system then I am afraid that prisoners votes is the only solution.

Barnacle Bill said...

I suppose when the next general election appears on the horizon with the possibility of being a parliamentary candidate is on the cards Mr. Dale we might see a return to sensible blogging.
Or will you have become too much of a media whore by then?
Where you should have been directing your ire is at the previous administration who had ignored this issue for too long.
Better to have pointed out that this was another case of Cameron having to clean up the mess left by NuLabor.

Wildheart Baby said...

Never mind, the whole campaigning in prisons comment, I've lived in this house for 16 years and have never once seen a candidate to canvas me on whether I would or why I should vote for them.

Iain Dale said...

Doubting Richard, could you please explai how this blogpost constitutes a "terrible" attitude please?


I suspect it is a case again of you reacting to what you think I probably wrote rather than what I actually wrote.

Anonymous said...

Iain - forgive me for using the same comment I made on Tom Harris MP's blog.


Unfortunately, in this instance, The European Convention militates against the sentiment of many who are appalled that prisoners get the vote.

The harsh legal fact of the matter is that Britain signed up to the European Convention (indeed, was instrumental in drafting it) and, as signatories we agreed to abide by judgments of the ECHR.

The majority decision in United Kingdom v Hirst No 2 was clear - Britain must give prisoners the vote - but not all prisoners. The Frodl ruling which came after suggested that all prisoners must be given the vote.

I did a very detailed legal analysis of this issue with ex Government lawyer Carl Gardner.

If you have time and the inclination - you may find the podcast of some interest?

I gave John Hirst an opportunity to put his case on my blog. I was then abused by him and was, ironically, called a snob and mocked by him. This matters not to me. Hirst suffers from Aspergers and does not relate to people, I understand, in a conventional way.

I suspect a lot of the hatred for Hirst and abuse is driven by the nature of Hirst's crime - killing a defenceless woman with an axe. Had Hirst been a Bank robber his crusade may not have engendered such hatred.

His behaviour in the 'celebratory' video demeans and undermines the validity of the principle and the cause of prisoners.

This latter point is, of course, irrelevant - as, indeed is public opinion. The ECHR made that clear in the judgment.

The dissenting judges in Hirst No 2 made powerful points - but they were the dissenters. the majority ruling is the one the UK has to comply with.

That is the problem with law and rule of law. If it is to have any meaning, we have to comply with it - even though it may be unpalatable.

We can, of course, change the law - in this instance by seeking amendments to the Convention.

I think there are more important civil liberties issues which need to be addressed in the UK. For my part - I don't have any objection to prisoners getting the vote - but I don't hold strong evangelical views on this and, I suspect, if pushed, I would come down in favour of limiting prohibition on voting to criminals convicted of anti-state crimes and the most serious crimes.

I do have some sympathy for allowing prisoners to vote on rehabilitative grounds if they are likely to be returned to society.

There is no shame in the UK government complying with the law on this issue - even though it angers many.

Mr Hirst's bragging about holding the prime minister to ransom and his mockery of lawyers and Charlie Falconer is not worth getting hot under the collar over. I don't imagine for one moment, that Charlie Falconer is concerned by the personal abuse meted out by Hirst.

Smelly said...

I think Mr Hirst has rather succesfully trolled the blogosphere.

tory boys never grow up said...

It is not actually true that all prisoners lose the right to vote - those who are there for non payment of fines and contempt of court do not (and probably shouldn't either). It is also not the case the the ECHR judgement stops the UK in restricting the rights of prisoners to vote - it just stops the use of a blanket ban without any though as to its application. Plenty of other European countries have such bans - and in the case of Belgium the ban applies in some cases to prisoners after they have left Britain.

I can see at least one very good reason for applying the ban to those prisoners convicted of murder/manslaughter who are out on licence.

Thorpe said...

For serving prisoners, I am not persuaded that the right to vote is a human right, and believe that the temporary removal of the right should be part of the penalty paid for crime.

We do not allow Argentinians, Malaysians or Americans to vote in this country unless they have a joint-citizenship or other legal right to vote, but we don't deny they are humans and have other rights such as the right to life and so on. I don't have a right to vote in Japan, but I would expect to see the Japanese authorities uphold my fundamental rights should I ever travel there.

Why don't we just tell Brussels to f**k off? What will they threaten us with that'll hurt more than not paying £45M a day (and rising) to be part of their poxy project? Norway and Switzerland do very well not being in the EU. Frankly, Brussels cannot afford the UK, France or Germany to start acting up. We should try throwing our weight around a little more.