The European Court of Human Rights has again ruled that the UK has breached prisoners’ rights by not allowing them to vote, but declined to award compensation or legal costs.
The seven-strong Chamber in Firth and Others v the United Kingdom held, by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 3 of protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to free elections.
But it said the finding of such a violation constituted ‘sufficient just satisfaction’ for the damage sustained by applicants. It declined to award damages or legal costs to the 10 inmates serving sentences in Scottish jails who brought the action.
The court reiterated the judgments in previous cases, including the 2004 ruling against the UK in the case of killer John Hirst, that the blanket ban on prisoners voting was unlawful.
The court recognised the recent steps taken in the UK with the publication of a draft bill and the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee appointed to examine the bill. As the bill has not yet become law, however, the court said the UK remains in breach.