Prisoners voting: Government must calculate cost

The UK Government has no idea how much compensation it may have to pay to Scottish prisoners for its blanket ban on voting, Jo Swinson has learned.

Jo uncovered the fact in a parliamentary question to the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

Commenting, Jo said:

“Yet again, the Government’s failure to act is staggering.

“They knew they would need to act to implement the judgment on prisoners’ voting rights, and failed.

“Their own minister has admitted there could be a large compensation bill, but they still haven’t bothered to work out how much it could be.

“The Government must stop sitting on its hands.”

Jo’s written question on the cost of compensation for prisoners:

Jo Swinson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the potential liability arising from legal action taken by prisoners not allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2007.

Bridget Prentice: My Department has not made any estimate of potential liability arising from legal action taken by prisoners who cannot vote in the 2007 Scottish parliamentary elections.

However, no damages have previously been awarded to any prisoner on the basis that they are unable to vote in UK elections, and the recent judgment of the Scottish courts does not affect the Government’s position on this issue, following the decision in October 2005 of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the Hirst case.

The Evening Times on 25th January 2007 said:

“Mr Cairns admitted there could be some compensation to pay, which the UK Government would meet.”

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