But according to European law they do:
The Council of Europe has urged the UK government to hurry up and change the law on prisoner voting rights. As things stand, the UK’s 84,073 strong prison population (all avowed Conservative voters, according to reports) are barred from voting in elections under section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
In March 2004, however, in the case of Hirst v. United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously ruled that the maintenance of an absolute bar on convicted prisoners voting was in breach of Article 3 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to free and fair elections.
The case was brought by John Hirst, a prisoner who, in 1980, had been sentenced to a term of discretionary life imprisonment after pleading guilty to manslaughter. The UK Government unsuccessfully appealed the decision before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR.
Whether you agree with it or not, the case was won under this protocol, to which the UK is signed:
The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.
So it really makes you wonder where Roger Godsiff gets off putting together an election leaflet like that, basically saying ‘Lib Dems Love Paedophiles and Murderers’ which couldn’t be less true. Godsiff meanwhile had the nerve to defend the leaflet:
Mr Godsiff defended the campaign tactic, saying the Lib Dems’ policy on the issue was “black and white” but they were not making that clear to voters.
“I agree that the imagery is strong but I do not accept that it is any stronger than anything that has been put out by my opponents,” Mr Godsiff told the BBC.
“The leaflet has been distributed in certain areas but it does not contain anything that is factually incorrect. I have put out some negative campaigning when my opponents do not tell the electorate what their position is.
“It is right and proper to ask whether they support or do not support whether people convicted of serious crimes can vote. I have invited other candidates to make their position clear….I have made my position clear.”
Labour has withdrawn the leaflet. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile describe their position on the European Court’s ruling as:
in future, [they said] judges should be given discretion to decide, upon sentencing, whether to strip someone of the vote, depending on the length of sentence and the nature of the crime.
Once a new system was in place, they said existing prisoners should be given the right to launch an appeal to try and secure the vote.
However, they insisted that those guilty of the most serious crime should never be able to do this.
Why this policy should be so offensive to Godsiff is a mystery, unless the leaflet really is a reflection of how terrified the party now is of the Liberal Democrats. I have to say I agree with the Court’s ruling, and not with the Lib Dems on this. The Court:
found no evidence to support the claim that disenfranchisement deterred crime and considered that the imposition of a blanket punishment on all prisoners regardless of their crime or individual circumstances indicated no rational link between the punishment and the offender.
The ECtHR also maintained that:
Removal of the vote in fact runs counter to the rehabilitation of the offender as a lawabiding member of the community and undermines the authority of the law as derived from a legislature which the community as a whole votes into power.
I agree with those points. I see no reason why any prisoner should ever be denied the vote. Reading the rest of the link above it’s revealing that the government is doing everything in its power not to abide by the Court’s ruling. Well done yet again to New Labour for sticking to its utter contempt for human rights. This general election will not be run in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights – that’s what’s really offensive.