Sunday 22 February 2009

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Press Release:UK Prisoners vote out government

The Association of Prisoners (AoP), have surprised the government, today, by launching a legal strike last night, to the European Parliament, because of the Ministry of Justice procrastination in abiding by a ECtHR decision relating to the universal suffrage.

The AoP which was formed as a result of the Human Rights Act, allowing the move under Article 11 of the Convention, have engaged in Lawful Rebellion against the government and Parliament for the failure to pass the necessary legislation allowing all convicted prisoners to vote in the UK General Election. They have petitioned the EU to be allowed to vote in the UK, at the Elections to the European Parliament, to be held on 4 June 2009. They wish to vote for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Under Article 194 of the EC Treaty the AoP have submitted a petition to the European Parliament to be allowed to exercise their rights as EU citizens.

The surprise legal move has caught the UK government off guard, because its erroneous legal view is that:"At present prisoners serving a custodial sentence do not have the right to vote. This ban was enshrined in section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 as amended by the Representation of the People Act 1985:

3 Disfranchisement of offenders in prison etc,

(1) A convicted person during the time that he is detained in a penal institution in pursuance of his sentence [or unlawfully at large when he would otherwise be so detained] is legally incapable of voting at any parliamentary or local government election".

The AoP, in its petition, contends that the "any parliamentary" only applies to any UK parliamentary election, because under EU law the UK cannot bind the EU Parliament, but the EU parliament can bind the UK. For example, a Swedish prisoner in a UK prison is entitled to vote in the EU parliamentary election. It follows that because UK prisoners are also EU citizens they can exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming election. The prisoners are relying upon the principle of universal suffrage. To deny them this right would mean that they are being victimised, and would lead to claims for compensation costing the government many millions of pounds at a time when there is an economic downturn.

Following the landmark judgment in Hirst v UK(No2), Cyprus, Iraq, and the Republic of Ireland, have granted prisoners the vote, and now Hong Kong is to follow suit.

The petition has been filed with the Committee on Petitions, the specific point raised about the EU parliamentary election did not emerge during the above case, which is itself to be the subject of the Committee of Ministers meeting on 17-19 March 2009, when the execution of the judgment is expected. It would appear that the government is facing a double whammy, and have seriously underestimated the legal ability of the jailhouselawyers and AoP members politicisation over recent years.

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