The European Court of Human Rights made a ruling that prisoners should be allowed to vote. We in the UK, have not complied with that ruling yet, but the Prime Minister has said we can no longer put it off.
On the face of it, I don’t agree with it. If you are in prison, you are there for not complying with the laws of society to a serious enough degree to have your liberty removed, therefore why should you get the right to vote?
However, as always, I also think its not that simple. Not all criminals go to jail. In fact as a Magistrate, I have sent few people to jail and not many at all just for a first offence. There is in essence a tier system of seriousness, and prison is very much a last resort, either for public safety or all other avenues have been explored. Also, prisoners only (generally) serve half their sentence in prison, the rest they serve on licence (with electronic tag).
My point in highlighting this is what do we use as the discriminator here, if we do not want criminals to vote, then there is a lot wider remit of people who are serving sentences such as those under Curfew and/or Supervision order etc, who are not confined in prison but you could argue that they have ticked all the boxes not to vote, but they currently do.
It is on this basis that I think it is right for prisoners to have the vote, not because of their rights per se, but more around the fact that we have not addressed the wider issue of why we are restricting prisoners over any other criminal.
The issue will now be that Cameron has indicated that he does not want the most serious offenders to have the vote. So how do we work that? Length of sentence? As I have already said, if you go to prison in the first place, your generally no Angel, so what number of years is appropriate? Would that be number of years for a single offence or for the aggregate (there is normally more than one) and would that treat aggregates as consecutive or concurrent. (Aggregate offences are normally served concurrent).
Some options could be, any Crown Court sentence automatically loses the right to vote (you go to crown for the more serious offences). Additionally the more serious Either Way offences in the Magistrates court could also apply.
I wonder what will happen next?