Friday, 11 February 2011

The Prisoner Dilemma

While I fully understand the animosity some people feel towards the giving of voting rights to prisoners I can’t help feel that a big part of how the issue is perceived is the way the whole thing has been dealt with by the media, politicians, etc.

I want to make a couple of key points here:

  1. This has fuck all to do with the EU this is VERY important, the judgement came from the European Court of Human Rights which was set up under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which was drawn up by the Council of Europe. Lots of people, including parts of the media like the Express, are telling deliberate lies as part of what I can only deduce is a deliberate anti-EU agenda.
  2. They are not telling us we have to give the vote to all our prisoners, you are allowed to abrogate rights as part of a lawful process. What they are saying is that our indiscriminate ban is wrong. At the moment you lose the right to vote if you are in for 28 days for speeding, or life for murder.

We need to change the rules so that the suspension of the right to vote is part of proportionate sentencing. This doesn't require the Heart-rending and Gut-wrenching moral panic the media shit storm suggests but just some sensible legislation. In fact under pretty much any sensible law on this matter John Hirst who brought the case that has caused all the fuss would still have had his vote removed while he was inside. But the fact that this should be done as part of the due process of law makes all the difference. It might even lead to crimes that don't attract a custodial sentence leading to a suspension of the vote, I can see this logically applying to offenses under a Representation of the People Act for example.

Oh and given that adhering to the tenets of the ECHR is part of the law of this land, it is an amusing argument to say that all the MPs voting to ignore it are lawbreakers and by their own argument should lose the right to vote.

1 comment:

pharrap said...

I had similar concern about the "right to a family life" case with the non-deported hit-and-run driver earlier this year.

Some of our media, the right-wing papers especially, seem to have decided that "universal human rights" are a bad thing, and that they should be selectively removed from people we don't like, or that they've been arbitrarily imposed on us by foreigners.

There is scope for debate on human rights: about what should and should not be a universal human right, and who should decide those definitions. The more rabid media seem to avoid those legitimate debates (too complicated?) in favour of arguing about whether we should apply our own laws and about who "deserves" human rights.