UK gets ultimatum on giving vote to prisoners

Prisoners should be given the right to vote, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled yesterday, in an ultimatum that will undoubtedly increase acrimony between the judges in Strasbourg and the Government.

Britain has been given six months to lift its blanket ban on inmates voting, despite that David Cameron has said it makes him "physically ill" to contemplate such a move.

But the Government won some concessions as the ECHR agreed with its argument that "each state has a wide discretion" as to how to regulate the ban and what type of offence should lead to disenfranchisement.

Prisoner voting rights has been a key issue in the strained relationship between Strasbourg and London. While the ECHR first ruled against a ban seven years ago, earlier this year MPs voted 234 to 22 in favour of defying the judgment.

Yesterday, opponents called the court's move a "regrettable decision", while those in favour welcomed the ruling, insisting the ban was outdated.

"We should welcome any prisoner who wants to participate in the democratic process," Angela Patrick, the director of human-rights policy at Justice, said.