Victory over the “foreign court”

John Rentoul

strawdavis 300x168 Victory over the foreign courtJack Straw and David Davis have a joint article in the Telegraph today, urging the Government to ignore the European Court of Human Rights and to refuse to give convicted prisoners the right to vote.

I agree with them in principle, and draw almost the opposite conclusion. The Government ought to welcome the ruling of what the Prime Minister called “a foreign court” as a great victory and make an elaborate show of complying with it.

What Straw and Davis do not seem to realise is that the Court is in disorderly retreat, having taken fright at the angry and determined response of the UK House of Commons, which voted by 234 to 22 in February last year against extending the vote to prisoners.

Having ruled originally that it was contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights to deny the vote to all prisoners without distinguishing between categories, the Court now accepts that the question is a matter for national governments and invents no further law on how they are to decide which prisoners can vote and which cannot.

Some prisoners can already vote in English and Welsh law – something that the Strasbourg Court seems to have overlooked in its first judgment. Remand prisoners, fine defaulters and those imprisoned for contempt of court are entitled to vote (although I don’t how they exercise this right). The Strasbourg ruling seems to allow the Government to make minor changes to voting and non-voting categories.

So let us take the vote away from fine defaulters and contempt of courters, and grant it to those in jail for the shortest sentences, at the sentencing judge’s discretion.

Job done.

As soon as Abu Qatada is on a plane, even Straw and Davis might realise that the Government is actually winning the battle against excessive judge-made law from Strasbourg.

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  • Tony Powell

    How come people get so excited about prisoners getting the right to vote – yet seem perfectly relaxed about people who have committed crimes, served time and then are allowed back in as unelected legislators in the House of Lords?

    Okay Jeffrey Archer may have done his time, but why does he get a vote in the HoL, plus a title, whilst law abiding people do not?

  • Andreas Moser

    Could somebody please explain to Mr Cameron that the European Court of Human Rights is NOT a “foreign court”: It is more British than he thinks or admits. 

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