BBC Home
Explore the BBC

CBBC

UK

Last Updated: Thursday February 10 2011 19:05 GMT

Debate over British prisoners' right to vote

Graphic of ballot papers in prison cell

Leah finds out why there's such a debate

A big debate is going on over whether British prisoners in the UK should be allowed to vote.

The government could be sued for millions of pounds if they don't give prisoners who've been found guilty of law breaking the right to vote.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2005 a vote ban is against inmates' rights, under an European agreement the UK's signed up to.

A majority of MPs voted to reject the ruling on Thursday.

The government doesn't have to agree with the result of the vote, but it does put pressure on them. It has until April to respond to the ruling.

Prime Minister David Cameron has made his views clear: "I don't see any reason why prisoners should get the vote. This is not a situation I want this country to be in."

Some MPs think it should be up to politicians in Britain, not Europe, to decide whether prisoners get the vote.

Situation across Europe

Across Europe, the situation varies between countries. For example, in Denmark there is no ban at all, but in Russia no prisoners can go to the ballot box.

In Greece, there is a partial ban - all inmates can vote except those who have been given a life sentence.