Prisoners need to forfeit rights, due to their participation
in criminal acts, supporting the concept of civic death –the loss of all civil
rights due to a conviction, meaning the voting ban is entitled, as a form of
punishment. David Cameron states “no one should be under any doubt- prisoners
are not getting the vote under this government”, as the removal of the ban
makes him “physically sick”1.
The political aspect undermines human rights, with many politicians supporting
the ban, depriving prisoners of fundamental rights. However, Weston argues that
civic death is legally inaccurate and out-dated, regardless of the crime
committed; they remain citizens of the state2.
Thus, right to vote is necessary, suggesting that HR are at risk.
International treaties like the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights heighten the status of voting as a fundamental
right. Article 25 indicates that every citizen should have the opportunity
without unreasonable restrictions to vote at genuine periodic elections3.
This means that the blanket ban is unreasonable. Although HR in England and
Wales are protected under international law, the impact is limited. It is
debatable whether voting right is a basic right not an absolute right unlike
the ban on torture4.
This suggests the differentiation between basic and absolute rights,
governmental response to Hirst shows that general rights such as voting are
As argued by Weston, voting may not be absolute but it is a fundamental human
right to vote, so the blanket ban is not appropriate6.
European Court of justice has ruled it is lawful for
countries to impose a voting ban on prisoners who are convicted of serious
crimes. The court upheld a ban on a French murderer Thierry Delvigne7
who served more than 5 years. Delvigne argued his inability to vote in European
Parliament elections infringed EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The French
law allowed the removal of rights from those convicted of a sentence more than
5 years, as it “takes into account the nature and gravity of the criminal
offence committed and the duration of the penalty”8.
This international source justifies the provision of the ban. Simpson9 highlights
the implication of Delvigne on the UK legislation, which may result in
restrictions being placed on long serving sentences, but not short serving
sentences. The government allowing certain prisoners to vote, means there is a
move from a complete ban to a partial ban, which the Council of Europe
supports. This restores prisoner’s rights.
The Bill of Rights is proposed to replace the HRA after Brexit.
This means that HR in England and Wales are to be protected by the Bill of
Rights, which ensures HR. Critics of the HRA see the Bill of Rights as an
opportunity to remedy what they see as problematic by the influence of the
doubts the ability of Bill of Rights, which may not live up to the standards of
the HRA but there is great wide spread political support for a proposal to
reduce the Strasbourg Court’s influence. The impact of Brexit has heightened
the risk of human rights being at a loss. The removal of the direct
enforceability of ECHR in UK law effects HRA, being ‘an act of self harming
isolationism by the UK’11,
meaning the Brexit will have a destructive impact on human rights. It can be
argued that Bill of Rights as an alternative is a disguise to cover the
reductions in rights that are protected by HRA.
The blanket ban has many implications, which results in
discrimination against certain groups. Black, Asian, minority groups are
disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system as Black people
make up 3% of the population but 12% of prison population12. The
blanket ban results in the lack of opinion by prisoners, with laws impacting their
lives in and outside of prison. Cheney implies that the ban for right to vote
is not a matter of electoral reform, but embraces the rehabilitation of
offenders and addresses disproportionate representation in the electoral
Thus, HR in UK are at risk.
The blanket ban is a contradiction of fundamental human
rights that are guaranteed under the ECHR. According to Prison Rules 1999 rule
3, the purpose of prison is to punish and rehabilitate14.
This means that not giving prisoners the right to vote is a hindrance to
rehabilitation. Prisoners have already lost the liberty; so depriving them the
right to vote is seen as excessive. The proposals of the removal of HRA due to
Brexit indicate that human rights are under threat by the disguise of Bill of
Rights. The reducing influence of EU law means that human rights in England and
Wales are at risk.
1 BBC News,
‘Prisoners will not get the vote, says David Cameron (October 2010)
accessed 4 January 2018
2 Josh Weston, ‘A
ban behind Bars: A critical Analysis of Britain’s Blanket Ban on Prisoner
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 25(b)
4 S. Chakrabarti and D. Rabb, Should
Prisoners Have the Right to Vote? (August 2014)
7 Case C- 650/13 Thierry Delvigne
v Commune de Lesparre-Medoc and Prefet de la Gironde 2015
8 ibid para 49
9 Fraser Simpson, ‘CJEU ruling on prisoner voting – open
door for successful UK challenge?’ October 2015,
accessed 2 January 2018
Lambrecht, ‘HRA Watch: Reform, Repeal, Replace? Criticism of the European Court
of Human Rights: A UK Phenomenon?’ UK Const. L. Blog (27th Jul 2015)
11 C. Gearty. ‘ The Human Rights Act should
not be repealed’, U.K. const. L. Blog (17th Sept 2016)
12 The Lammy Review: A review into the
treatment of and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in
the Criminal Justice System. Ch 5
13 Cheney, ‘Prisoners as Citizens in a Democracy’
(2008) 47 The Howard Journal 134
14 The Prison Rules 1999 s3