Prisoners’ Voting Rights: The Constitutional and Policy Case for Compliance with the Judgment of the Strasbourg Court-Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC (UCL)
15 Nov 2016, 1pm | Room F, Law Faculty, Oxford University

The European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Hirst, has held that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners’ voting offends Convention rights.  The previous Prime Minister said that prisoners voting makes him ‘physically sick’ and the House of Commons has passed a resolution in effect encouraging defiance of Strasbourg’s ruling.

Apart from the question of the UK’s obligation in international law to implement the judgments of the Strasbourg Court, and the practical implications of non-compliance, does the ban on prisoners’ voting violate purely domestic constitutional principles?

Three such principles will be discussed:

  • The presumption of liberty;
  • The principle of equality, and
  • Parliamentary sovereignty.

Irrespective of those principles, could the ban be justified as necessary and proportionate in a democratic society? Does it fulfil the accepted aims of penal policy or, on the contrary, does it not speak to those aims or indeed subvert them (in particular, the aim of rehabilitation)?

img_20161115_130558 img_20161115_130408 img_20161115_131233-1

A recording of the event can be found here.


Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC
Emeritus Professor of Public Law at UCL; Founder- Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and practising barrister at Blackstone Chambers