This morning saw the publication of the report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill. As regular readers will know, I served on the committee and we have spent the past year taking evidence from a range of witnesses, including the Justice Secretary and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. We also visited a couple of prisons (one appears in the picture) to hear from prisoners.
Views were clearly divided, but we recommended allowing prisoners serving less than twelve months, and those within six months of release, be permitted to vote. We felt that twelve months was appropriate, as this is the maximum sentence a magistrates court can impose for multiple offences and is also the term in force at the time we signed the European Convention on Human Rights. It thus puts us back to where we were until the late 1960s: the blanket ban on prisoners being allowed to vote only dates from then.
Our recommendation flowed from our belief that the UK should comply with the rule of law and our international obligations. Parliament has the power to retain a blanket ban but we argued against using that power, given the undesirable consequences we felt would flow from retaining the ban.
You can read the full report here.