Prisoners’ cash claim over voting ban blocked by court

The High Court has blocked a compensation bid by prisoners barred from voting in last year’s general election.

Claims have been launched in county courts nationwide by 585 serving prisoners, with another 1,000 potential cases in the pipeline, Mr Justice Langstaff was told in London.

Jason Coppel, for the Ministry of Justice, said the cases should be struck out as they were “misconceived and bound to fail”.

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“Any remedy is to be sought in Strasbourg and not the domestic courts,” he said.

Convicted prisoners are excluded from the franchise by the Representation of the People Act 1983, which has been held as incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention.

This has given rise to litigation on a number of fronts – in Strasbourg where 2,500 UK claims are pending, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and previously in the High Court in the case of murderer Peter Chester.

Giving his ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Langstaff said: “The case was heard a day before Parliament debated whether it should introduce legislation to amend the 1983 Act.

“Though the subject matter of each is the same – the enfranchisement of prisoners – the role of the courts and of the legislature are distinct.

“It is no part of the court’s function to express any view as to the nature of legislative change, if any: merely to rule on that which the laws as currently enacted by Parliament require.

“This judgment is to the effect that, applying those laws, including the Human Rights Act 1998, a prisoner will not succeed before a court in England and Wales in any claim for damages or a declaration based on his disenfranchisement while serving his sentence.”