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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Should prisoners be able to vote?
Prison corridor
Do you think that prisoners should be given the right to vote in parliamentary and local elections?

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that banning prisoners from voting breaches their human rights.

This decision is almost certain to lead to an alteration in British law.

The case was taken to Strasbourg by inmate John Hirst who is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in 1980.

Do you agree that denying prisoners the right to vote is a breach of their human rights?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Chris, UK
Should prisoners be allowed to vote?

Every time criminals commit a crime they are breaching the human rights of all law abiding citizens. Prison should be a punishment not a holiday camp.
Jerard, Nottingham

Prisoners who have broken the law in the UK can vote but women in Saudi Arabia, who have broken no law, cannot vote.
Sunil Patel, London, UK

Of course not. The prisoners didn't think much about the human rights of the people affected by their actions which got them in prison in the first place. I just wonder if the Human Rights Act has actually ever been beneficial for ordinary decent folk?
Paul, Hastings, East Sussex

Isn't the idea of prison to reform the prisoner? Voting is one way of re-engaging the prisoner. It's important that a civilised society treats those who it chooses to lock up properly. They are human beings after all.
S Lee, London, UK

Who should and who should not be allowed to vote is surely dependant upon whether or not a person is a net contributor to the society which is electing its leaders, representatives or spokespersons. It is ridiculous to suggest that non-taxpayers be permitted through the ballot box to determine how taxpayers should spend their tax revenues.
Anthony Brown, Shrewsbury, England

As a prison officer I see every day that prisoners are gaining far too many rights
Chris Smith, Hull
As a prison officer I see every day that prisoners are gaining far too many rights. Voting should not be one of them. We have to get back to realising that prisoners are in prison for committing a crime and should be seen to be punished, not given everything on a plate just because some bleeding heart do-gooder thinks they should. We are sailing very close to a lawless society and things like this are pushing us closer.
Chris Smith, Hull

There seems to be a worryingly large amount of people who think that the European Court of Human Rights is part of the EU. It is not and is actually based upon a treaty signed in 1953.
Dave Besag, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Let them vote, it will remind the rest of us not to let the prison population grow out of control. And if the act of voting starts to awaken an awareness of society in them, then that might further their rehabilitation.
Anna, Cambridge, UK

Commit a crime and suffer the consequences. Once committed, a criminal effectively waives his or her rights to the freedoms the rest of us law-abiding citizens enjoy. Bleating on about their 'human rights' is nothing short of a slap in the face for the rest of us who work hard and stay on the right side of the law.
David, Eastbourne, UK

How can a court convey and condone a basic right to determine the right to vote in a democratic country? If you commit a crime then you must forfeit that right along with other's as part of a punishment.
David Peart, Gateshead

As you violate the human rights of others, so should yours be taken away
Sarah, UK
Chances are as a criminal that you have violated someone else's human rights (say, the right to live free from fear of being robbed). As you violate the human rights of others, so should yours be taken away.
Sarah, UK

Prisoners should be able to vote. Although not by post as their mail should be subject to opening to confirm it contains nothing untoward and that opens the door to fraud. So a prisoner who is able to break out of jail and get to the booth during the election with their polling card and proof of ID should be able to vote.
Tim, Fareham, UK

A prisoner shouldn't be allowed to have a vote, or a say on anything, they gave that right up when they were convicted. Human rights protect the criminals too much. The European Court of Human Rights shouldn't be interfering. Britain should never allow Europe to tell us what or not to do.
Ian, Neath, South Wales

I am sick to death of prisoners getting better treatment than their victims. I thought prison was supposed to be a punishment. Stuff the EU, let the ban stand.
John Guinan, Liverpool

Say we do let them vote, who will they vote for? The person they think will be soft on crime, soft on criminals and make their criminal lives easier.
Ray, London, England

Due to their infringements against society the Human Rights Act should not apply to prisoners and they should not receive any voting rights.
Martin, England

The law is too lenient on prisoners anyway
Laura Justice, Croydon
Absolutely not. The law is too lenient on prisoners anyway; allowing them early release without finishing their full punishment is one example. Allowing them to vote gives them more privileges which they surrendered when they committed the crime in the first place.
Laura Justice, Croydon

The entitlement to vote is not a basic human right, it is now, and always has been, determined by status. It may be seen as unfair to deny certain people a vote but ultimately the determination of voting rights is made by the members of the democracy, and it is they who decide the rules of eligibility, not the courts.
Neil James, Douglas, IOM

The UK law which states that "any prisoner may not vote" is flawed as all prisoners are not the same. Crimes committed vary widely in their nature. Perhaps it is time to implement a new law which allows some prisoners (those convicted of minor crimes) to vote, and others (those convicted of more serious crimes) not to vote. There are more than two options for this situation
Ashley Ward, London

People should remember, especially in the current political climate, that inmates are only in prison because they broke a law enacted by a government. Why should prisoners not have a right to take part in a democratic process that may result in a change of government with different views as to what constitutes an imprisonable offence. If the voting public don't like it, they could try getting out and voting themselves, instead of not bothering as half of the electorate usually do.
S.Davison, Edinburgh, UK

Criminals have chosen to deprive someone else of their human rights by their criminal act
Paul D'Arcy, Fulham
This is another example of European interference and madness. Criminals have chosen to deprive someone else of their human rights by their criminal act. It is only right that they forfeit some of their own rights in return. The quicker we can over-ride this court and strike out such ludicrous decisions the better for the whole country and the safer I will feel.
Paul D'Arcy, Fulham

It would be absurd to let prisoners vote for the constituency or council where they are locked up - and impractical as they get moved around so much. But I see no reason why they should not be registered at their former home addresses and given the postal vote - everyone can get a postal vote now, and there is little risk of impersonation!
Andrew, London

Losing the right to vote is an integral part of the punishment involved in imprisonment. The raison d'etre of prisons is to punish criminals. This ruling is another example of the creeping expansion of EU influence over life in Britain.
GYS, London, UK

Taking away the right to vote from a prisoner is the first step to dictatorship. In principle this would open up the possibility of imprisoning individuals for political reasons. When certain political activists are in jail, they can't exercise their right to vote. It is a very scary scenario.
J, Luxembourg

And people wonder why the US doesn't want to join in courts of "justice" based in Europe. Have fun.
Myles, San Francisco, USA

Allowing prisoners to vote will not undermine justice
J R, Coventry, UK
Not everyone convicted is guilty. The justice system is not perfect, and I see no contradiction in giving people a jail sentence as a punishment, without necessarily withdrawing their right to vote. Allowing prisoners to vote will not undermine justice. If it has any effect at all, it will most likely be taken as a statement that the right to vote is taken seriously. I don't think we will see an increase in crime if prisoners are made able to vote.
J R, Coventry, UK

To argue that voting is basic human right for all is fallacious. Should a six-year-old be allowed to vote? Are they not human? Do the decisions we make today not affect them now and in the future? Not everyone is entitled to vote. Voting is the right of all law-abiding, adult citizens. Prisoners, through their own actions, have forfeited their right to vote.
Craig Wright, Berlin, Germany

Surely by being convicted of a crime by a jury of your peers you lose your liberty, and a right to vote is part of that liberty! Where will this madness from Brussels end? Are we going to not bother sending convicted murderers and rapists to prison, as "being imprisoned is a breach of their human rights!?"
Matt, Birmingham

If a person commits a violent crime against another person, they should lose their rights apart from the basics like food, water and heat. No person should attack another then spend their prison sentence in better conditions than some people live in.
LH, Exeter

Yes they should have the right to vote. The point of punishment and jail in particular is to punish, rehabilitate, and deter to name a few. Allowing a prisoner to vote can help them re-identify to the society and norms making them less likely to re offend. It sounds as if most people here would not forgive and forget a criminal but rather throw away the key and forget about them full stop.
Sam Parker, Bristol, UK

We had this debate in Canada ten years ago after the Supreme Court forced the government to allow prisoners to vote. Their reasoning was based on the fact that prisoners have no ability to formally change their living conditions in prison. Personally, I think being able to vote is more civilized than rioting.
Eric Hovius, Saskatoon. Canada.

Having the vote is a right and privilege of being a law-abiding member of society. End of issue. They do not deserve to vote if they cannot live within society's rules.
Steve Brereton, York, UK

Absolutely not! A prisoner has been found guilty of breaching the law and in doing so surrenders all rights to be a part of society for the duration of their sentence, this includes the right to vote. What about the people affected by the crime this prisoner has committed? Is their right to feel safe not as important? The Human Rights Act, while commendable in its intention, has created a monster that seems to be used increasingly for people to avoid any kind of guilt or punishment.
Craig Knight, Nottingham

How can you expect prisoners to fit into a society that they've had no part in creating?
Simon Begley, London
Prison is about loss of physical liberty, but it also about rehabilitation. The vast majority of those in prison will be released. How can you expect prisoners to fit into a society that they've had no part in creating?
Simon Begley, London

While in prison there is no way a person should be allowed to vote. Prison is supposed to inhibit people's freedom and the right to vote is part of that.
Sarah, UK

They broke the law, they give up their right to vote. Prison is a punishment they are meant to be denied the rights and privileges of citizens who have not broken the law. This is another example of the EU nanny state trying to be politically correct. Have they nothing of greater consequence to get involved with?
Mike G, UK

Absolutely they should - there should be no link between committing a crime and the removal of the right to vote. This country already seeks to limit our civil rights in so many other ways - reversing this law and bringing the UK back into accordance with the Convention on Human Rights would be a step in the right direction.
Tim Allen, Leeds, UK

As they have been imprisoned for committing crimes against society, then they should forfeit the right to shape it
Paul E, Derbyshire
In my opinion, prisoners gave up their right to vote when they were imprisoned. As they have been imprisoned for committing crimes against society, then they should forfeit the right to shape it.
Paul E, Derbyshire

Does every single country in the EU allow prisoners to vote then, come to think of it does Turkey? Prison is about punishment for a crime by deprivation of human rights (liberty) therefore it also seems reasonable to deprive convicted criminals of their right to vote also.
Andrew Butcher, Wrexham

If you have committed a crime against society and lost your freedom, then you have chosen to opt out of following the laws of the country. What then gives a prisoner the right to expect they can be part of the process that elects people who make those laws?
Martin Ball, Cheltenham

I always thought that being guilty of a crime meant a loss of freedoms, and representation was one of them. This is another erosion of the fundamental principles of penal law. This ruling raises an important question: how will the guilty be punished? Will they ultimately be unpunishable, as any punishment will be an infringement of their human rights?
Mark Gould, Portsmouth, UK

Why should people who have committed a crime against society be allowed to vote for a government that enforce the very laws they have broken? It makes no sense. Shouldn't we be concentrating on rehabilitating criminals in the prison system and not adding to a list of rights they should be denied whilst serving? The law should act as a deterrent, but how can this be if prisoners have almost as many rights as if they were on the outside?
Andy Spence, Chelmsford, Essex

Surely someone surrenders their rights when they violate the rights of others. Why do they think they should be equal with people who abide by the law?
Lee, Reading

Yes I think that prisoners should be able to vote. They are in prison as punishment not for further punishment. The amount of the time that they are without liberty and freedom is the punishment - nothing else. They have the same human rights as others.
Jennifer Newall, Liverpool, England

The whole "Human Rights" issue is going too far. Having rights without responsibilities is a root cause for today's "what can I get" culture. The only rights we have are Security, Health Care, Education and Housing. The rest should be earned by us living up to our social responsibilities and paying our dues, by living responsibly, considering our neighbours and not committing crimes. So no, criminals should not be allowed to vote, they voluntarily gave that "right" away when they committed the crime.
Gary, Peterborough, UK



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