140-year-old ban is lifted; 28,000 prisoners will have right to vote in Britan

More than 28,000 prisoners are to win the right to vote, new figures showed yesterday, as David Cameron faces a growing revolt from the Tory right against the lifting of the 140-year-old ban on inmates voting in British elections.
Crispin Blunt, the justice minister, announced that 28,770 prisoners serving sentences of up to four years will be given the right to vote. The figures include 5,991 prisoners convicted of violent offences and 1,753 inmates convicted of sexual offences.
The government revealed the change last year in response to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg six years ago that a blanket voting ban on convicted prisoners in British jails was unlawful.
Philip Hollobone, the Eurosceptic Tory MP for Kettering, is to intensify pressure on the government to restore the ban when he holds a debate at Westminster Hall next week.
Hollobone said: "There is no reason at all for the government to change the status quo. Just because the European court has made a pronouncement doesn't mean that the British government needs to accept that. Anyway, the British parliament decided these matters in 1870 – 75 years before the European court was established.
"The idea that the British parliament hasn't talked about this issue, which was mentioned in the European court judgment, is ludicrous. It was the 1870 forfeiture act which said prisoners shouldn't have the right to vote.
"I really don't see why the Conservative party should be forced to accept a LibDem manifesto commitment. The vast majority of my constituents are absolutely appalled at the idea of prisoners being given the right to vote."
Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, criticised the high numbers of prisoners who will be allowed to vote. "This is a slap in the face for victims of crime. We have already seen the Conservative-led government break their promise on knife crime. Now they are also giving thousands of offenders the vote.
"MPs on all sides of the House and the public are right to be angry about this decision. But they should also be angry at the manner in which it was announced – sneaked out on the day parliament broke up for Christmas."
A cabinet office spokesman said: "The government's proposals for giving prisoners the right to vote automatically exclude all offenders serving four years or more. For prisoners serving less, the sentencing judge will still have the power to remove the vote.
"Removing the blanket ban on prisoners voting is not a choice, but a legal obligation as a result of a court ruling. Failing to implement the ruling would put the government in breach of its international obligations and risk paying out taxpayers' money in compensation claims.
"We believe drawing the line at prisoners serving less than four years is enough to meet our legal obligations but goes no further than that. It ensures the most serious offenders are excluded."

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jan/05/prisoners-right-to-vote-britain

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