The rift between Britain and European judges over prisoner voting widened today after the Coalition Government – backed by Labour – insisted it had the authority to maintain the current ban on inmates taking part in elections.
Its stance put the country on a collision course with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has called for the UK to lift its current blanket ban.
Just one day before the deadline for Britain to respond to the ECHR ruling, the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, set out three alternatives for action. One – which the minister signalled he supported – was for the ban to remain in place with only minor amendments. The other options involve offenders sentenced to less than four years in jail or those sentenced to less than six months receiving the vote.
The options, detailed in draft legislation, will be considered by a parliamentary committee and then debated by MPs, although Mr Grayling has set no timetable for the moves. The Council of Europe, which oversees the ECHR, accused Mr Grayling of delaying tactics.