SNP Alyn Smith, Member of the European Parliament, today welcomed a judgment from the European Court of Justice (the highest court of the EU).
This stated that member states could maintain an indefinite ban on voting in European Parliament elections for certain nationals who were imprisoned so long as the restriction was proportionate to the aim pursued.
This is in line with a previous judgment from the European Court of Human Rights in October 2005 that found that a blanket ban on prisoners voting was a breach of human rights law.
“Today’s judgment came from the European Court of Justice, and is an interpretation of the laws of the EU, it is not directly based on the European Convention of Human Rights.
“This ruling shows consistency, and in my opinion, is the right balance. All this judgment does is state that not all prisoners should be treated the same way; a principal that I think is pretty reasonable.
“The European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights have different functions, one enforcing treaty law, the other the European Convention of Human Rights. That these two judgments agree in law despite finding in different directions for the individual cases shows how simple the issue is.
“Proportionality is central to this: prisoners can have the right to vote taken away but not universally.
“Unfortunately, proportionality is alarmingly absent from the UK Government. David Cameron cared so little about this judgment that he issued his opinion yesterday, stating he would simply ignore the result from the EU’s highest court.
“This cavalier attitude is all too familiar coming from a Government that has deliberately excluded nearly 90,000 Scots who happen to be EU citizens from the forthcoming EU referendum.
“The Conservatives seem to increasingly think that Human Rights are not fundamental, but optional.”
-ECJ Judgement summary:
-October 2005 ECHR case:
-A Downing Street source told the Daily Telegraph yesterday that David Cameron would seek to disregard any ruling.
“David Cameron has made clear that prisoners will not get the vote as long as he is Prime Minister. Nothing is going to change. He has made clear that the idea of them getting the vote makes him physically sick,” the source said.
“There is always a way of putting these things into the long grass.”