Thursday, October 25, 2012

Small Earthquake In Chile

We see that the issue of prisoners' votes has resurfaced, with, inevitably, the Mail going for it with a claim that this strikes at the 'soul of our democracy' whatever that may be.

The blog first mentioned the issue about seven years ago and again two years back. Nothing has changed other than an apparent firming of the government's determination to paint itself into a corner and to throw away a few million quid in an attempt to make itself look dead hard over Europe.

It's a pointless fight over a non-issue, and it begs the obvious question to those who govern us:-

Haven't you got more important things to worry about?

38 comments:

  1. You're banged up because your offence is so serious that it has passed the custody threshold. With that you lose your liberty, your right to go to work, your right to go to the footie, shopping or to the pub, your right to a family life - and the right to vote. What does the European Union not understand?

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    1. Er - it has nothing to do with the European Union.

      It's an ECHR issue.

      Geddit?

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    2. If someone is sentenced to 3 months, and that happens to fall across a general election, it is wrong that they can't vote. A prisoner does not lose the right to go shopping etc. for nearly 5 years after release.

      There is no obligation in the ruling to give prisoners serving long sentences a vote.

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    3. There's a distinction to be drawn between voting and your other examples (except for family life, which is restricted rather than lost).

      The essential punishment of prison is that, generally, you're not physically allowed out of the prison. A direct result of that is that you can't go to work, footie, shopping or the pub, because those things are outside the prison walls.

      There are other restrictions that do not flow directly from loss of physical liberty, but come from the need to maintain the security of the prison. You could allow prisoners to have mobile phones and drink alcohol the same as the rest of us, for example, but there are overwhelming reasons not to.

      Then there are arbitrary restrictions. Outside prison, everyone is free to read books, or speak to other people. You could choose to ban books and enforce silence in prison, and people would say things like "If you want to look at books, don't commit a crime." But we don't ban reading or speaking, because there's no particular need to and it would be unnecessarily harmful.

      You can vote by post without leaving the prison, so it's not a physical restriction. There's no obvious reason why it would harm the prison system, so it's not in the second category. It's an arbitrary restriction - the reason you can't vote is because you're not allowed - and it's potentially unhelpful as it fosters a sense of disengagement with society, a sense that your opinion matters less that that of others.

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  2. AnotherNorthernJP25 October 2012 at 10:45

    Hi Team. Unfortunately the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights are for ever conjoined in the minds of the majority of the British public. This view is constantly and deliberately reinforced by the media. No amount of stating that the two institutions are totally separate will change anything.

    I don't agree with the ECHR on this issue. However, I do agree that we signed up to the ECHR and we should abide by their decisions. Otherwise how can we expect others to do so.

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    1. And of course the Court has not said that every prisoner has to have a vote, simply that a blanket ban on all prisoners is illegal. Dominic Grieve recognises this; David cameron, on the other hand, has to keep looking over his shoulder at his right wing peeling off to Nigel Farage and UFIB.

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    2. Quite so. Given this, why do we not simply amend the law to say that prisoners sentenced to less than have the right to vote (as do prisoners on remand at present)? This essentially retains the principle many British people seem to hold dear whilst complying with the ECHR judgement. Simple and fair - then move on quickly. Or have I missed something?

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    3. Quite right payasuro - it's a matter of taking a reasoned view. I seem to recall many years ago learning that those who could not vote were, in the language of the time, peers, aliens, criminals and lunatics; we've moved on somewhat.

      I'm in danger of incurring the wrath of BS by pointing out that the report may prompt the question, but it does not beg it; begging the question is another matter all together.

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    4. Sorry for typo - that was "altogether". Glass houses and stones spring to mind.

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    5. The Young Pedant26 October 2012 at 23:11

      The New Oxford Dictionary of English says that Bystander's usage of "beg the question" is "widely accepted in modern standard English." Those who write with less assurance may be tempted to avoid it. It is, perhaps, worth noting that the original distinction appears to derive from a Biblical mistranslation...

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  3. This item in today's Independent puts our whole attitude into context.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uks-disdain-for-european-court-of-human-rights-condemned-8225484.html

    Team BS: fell free to edit this for easier reading

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  4. Even the BBC gets confused over this. It beggars belief that people still can't distinguish between the European Union and the Council of Europe. Every continental primary schoolchild has got this off pat by the age of about 8 or 9.

    What is particularly interesting here is that the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, should have made such an unequivocal statement contradicting the Gov't line on the same day that this tub-thumping piece of nonsense issued forth from Downing Street.

    The ECHR was inspired by British laws, designed by and to a large extent drafted by British lawyers, and this country has had a proud record of leading the world in human rights until recently. That reputation is disintegrating, and the country faces universal opprobrium. What a sad waste.

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  5. "other than an apparent firming of the government's determination to paint itself into a corner and to throw away a few million quid in an attempt to make itself look dead hard over Europe.

    "This is hardly an unbiased blogpost. I seems this site is getting more partisan/anti Govt by the day and is infinitely the worse for it.

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    1. Hardly. Bystander criticised the last government for doing exactly the same thing.

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    2. If you actually read what I wrote, I was talking about the "new kids on the block", not the original bystander.
      I certainly don't recall the original bystander being particularly political. I recall lots of extremely interesting and amusing cases stories. Indeed I sent him one or two myself.

      Each to his own opinion I guess. Its certainly outspoken than it used to be..in my opinion. you are perfectly at liberty to disagree.

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  6. Sir Nicolas Bratza's claims as reported by the Indie are wholly unsubstantiated.

    Is there a statto out there who can find some real figures.

    Whichever country comes out on top of the list of the most proactive challenger to the court's decisions will wear the crown as the government that has the best interests of justice at heart.

    It is the resigned sluggards lower down the list who are most deserving of condemnation.

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  7. I don't think that allowing prisoners the vote would make a jot of difference to the outcome of an election. The UK has signed up to obey the ECHR, we cannot choose not to follow its decisions.

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    1. Yes we can, actually.

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  8. personal view - if you are locked up you get to vote if you will be released before there is *another* election - i.e. if you will be out of prison, or likely to be so during that governments maximum possible term - you get a vote, otherwise no.

    essentially of you go down in such a way you will be inside for this election, *and* the one after it you don't vote this time, but you do the time after as you will be out while that government sits.

    just doing it totally on the time served should avoid further issues both with the ECHR and political "fiddling" in special cases

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  9. How many prisoners vote when they aren't banged up? Very few, I imagine. The fuss being made by the Mail may well result in more serving prisoners wanting to, Just to be awkward, or to relieve the monotony.

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  10. The government may be worried that a prison could actually swing a result. For example HMP Wandsworth is in Tooting, MP is Sadiq Khan, Labour, majority 2524 in 2010. The prison has a capacity of 1665 prisoners so is perilously close to holding a trump card.

    Tooting has been turning blue for a decade or more now - Khan would need to work that prison hard to keep his seat at the next general election.

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  11. If it don't matter much why all the heat?
    I agree that it is unlikely that many prisioner do vote or for that matter would want to. What has happened here is a small goup of busy bodies have campaingned for this for a while and persuaded the ECHR Court to go along with it. I tend to think if your banged up , your banged up and that's it- no vote. But, if it would stop all waste of money why not give a consession and say anyone inside for less than 6mths can have it anyone else- hard lines.

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  12. Personally I'd give every prisoner the vote, they're there to lose their liberty, not to be disenfranchised. (or punished over tariff due to no small part to a parole board that's apparently about a third of the size it needs to be)

    16/17year olds should also have the vote, if they're old enough to pay income tax they're old enough to vote. (although that may be moot with the impending increase to 18 of the school leaving age)

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    1. A child of age I second is old enough to pay tax. Should we give them the vote too?

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    2. I notice you dishonestly omitted the word "income" in that response that you also failed to put a name to. it's very simple, old enough to have your wages stolen by the state, old enough to have a say in which lot is doing it.

      How on earth you think we have have democracy otherwise is beyond me, if a 16/17 year old is old enough to go out to work (and indeed marry and everything that entails) then they are old enough to vote. end of.

      I've never heard anyone sentenced to disenfranchisement, how about we knock it off and have the prisoners voting in the constituency they were last living in from prison, very fair, representative etc.

      I'm also for compulsory voting, heh, a lot of people fought and died to obtain that RIGHT for us, people should be required to drag their backside to a polling station even if they only spoil their ballot when they get there.

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    3. A child of age 1 second *is* old enough to pay income tax.

      The only reason the vast majority don't is that they don't have income in excess of the Personal Allowance (£8,105 for the current 2012/2013 tax year).

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  13. If prisoners were to be given the right to vote, it would be in the constituency they were registered in before they were banged up, and by post or proxy, so having a prison in any constituency would not affect the out come.

    Can't see what the fuss is about, remand prisoners have always been able to vote, by post or proxy. I wonder how many do?

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  14. "PRISON inmates have set up their own political party in preparation for getting the vote"
    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/decriminalise-crime-says-prisoners-party-2012102646535

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  15. As prisoners are in the full time care of the state, there is of course an argument that they should have a say in who runs that state. The argument I prefer is that you treated the state's rules with contempt and therefore have forfeited the right to have that say. Remember cases in the mags courts (and crown!) are R vs. Def so are prosecuted in the name of the Queen on behalf of the state.

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  16. Not a central London JP28 October 2012 at 08:34

    Few matters are less complex than driving without valid insurance and MOT yet a Member of Parliament is dealt with by a DJ, not a bench of magistrates. Why should that be? And odd that the BS team doesn't comment.

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    1. They probably don't comment because it has become so common that the blog would be a long list of boringly similar posts.

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    2. There's truth in that payasoru. Also, certain people obtain very expensive representation even in Mags Ct and it scares those who do listings!!!

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    3. There's truth in that payasoru. Also, certain people obtain very expensive representation even in Mags Ct and it scares those who do listings!!!

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  17. Prison is an industry, albeit taken to the extreme in the USA.... It is too costly for the New Austerity Era we are all now in, but by all means, keep it going!

    As we saw with the riots, it is used to keep the Mob under control. These riots will increase as poverty hits more and more of the middle classes. Should get very interesting?

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  18. P.S. Congrats on the clever allusion to Claud Cockburn's (sadly apocryphal) Times headline.

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  19. Thought the point of prison was to temporarily remove a prisoner's liberty. If someone is not good enough to enjoy their own liberty why should they vote on issues that affect the liberty of others? The prisoner has been judged to be beyond the pale. They have broken the laws that society has put in place, because of this they lose the right to cast their vote on how society should be shaped. This is so simple that only a lawyer or magistrate could fail to grasp it. The timing of elections is irelevant as is the authorship of the ECHR.

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  20. So simple, Corin, that it's worth paying out perhaps £75 million in compensation to those deprived of the vote by the UK's blanket ban? Head banging must hurt.

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  21. The undeniable fact that ignoring the ECHR exposes us to compensation claims which are both objectionable and expensive is irrelevant to my point. If you lot believe that public consent to the law is in anyway important then this whole affair is rather more than 'a small earthquake in chile.'

    Perhaps you might take a moment out from decrying the CPS for undermining the legitmacy of the law and your courts and benches by failing to bring forward cases properly to additionally consider that if the people at large resent and reject a law or set of conventions then there is a decided risk that the legitimacy of courts and benches will be further and perhaps fatally undermined.

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