Give prisoners the vote, urges equalities and human rights committee

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 14 May 2018 in News

Tory MSPs oppose the report, which warned that denying those on custodial sentences the vote could impact negatively on society, prisoners' rehabilitation or democracy

Image credit: PA

Prisoners should be allowed to vote, according to the Scottish Parliament’s equalities and human rights committee.

The two Conservative MSPs on the committee opposed to the report, which warned that denying those on custodial sentences the vote could impact negatively on society, prisoners' rehabilitation or democracy, but they agreed the issue should be subject to wider consultation by ministers.

The committee also warned that the current blanket ban is arbitrary, and is also being adjusted by Westminster for UK elections following the Hirst judgement from the European Court of Human Rights.

The Scottish Government said it would study the report, with a spokesperson adding: “As with all parliamentary reports we will consider it carefully and provide a formal response to the committee in due course."

Under the Scotland Act 2016 a so-called ‘super-majority’ would be required to pass bills relating to protected subject-matters, including changes to the franchise, meaning that at least two-thirds of the total number of MSPs would need to support the change in order for it to pass.

Committee Convener Christina McKelvie MSP said: “Prisoner voting is a fundamental issue. It strikes to the heart of questions like ‘what sort of society do we want to be’, ‘what is prison for’ and ‘what are the rights and responsibilities of a citizen’.

“After careful consideration of this issue, we as a cross-party Committee have come to a majority view that the current ban should be lifted, and the right to vote be restored to all prisoners.

“We are acutely aware that prison is a place people go to be punished, and that there will be individual cases people find distasteful; but we need to think about rehabilitation, and not further excluding and alienating people from society.”

But Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative equalities spokesperson, said: “There is absolutely no public support for these proposals, and at no time did the Committee hear directly from victims of crime on this matter.

“Breaking the law is a serious matter and it is right that criminals are punished accordingly. Criminals should know that when they break the law this will be one of the consequences.

“Victims of crime will be horrified that that, yet again, the rights of criminals are being prioritised above the experiences of victims.

“These proposals simply demonstrate just how out of touch the other parties are. Only the Scottish Conservatives will stand up for victims and their families.”

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