Ipswich: MPs celebrate victory in prisoners voting debate

SUFFOLK: Two MPs who contested proposals to allow prisoners the right to vote helped convince fellow politicians to dismiss the plans.

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, and David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, both argued against the European ruling to allow serving convicts the vote during the heated debate in the House of Commons last week.

Mr Gummer told the debate tabled by David Davis and Labour former justice secretary Jack Straw on Thursday that voting was a freedom in Britain, not a right.

“Those who commit crimes deny freedom to others, wither by the force of violence or by inhibiting the actions of people and communities through fear,” he said.

Mr Ruffley argued the mandate would damage the British legal system.


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“If the law is passed, people will say giving prisoners the right to vote is nonsense,” he said. “They will say the law is an ass, and an ass it is when it so flagrantly and brazenly violates the principles of rationality, decency, fairness and common sense.”

MPs debated a ruling by the Council of Europe on Government proposals which would allow some 28,000 inmates serving less than four years to be given the vote.

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In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the case of prisoner John Hirst, who claimed a ban on his right to vote had breached his right to take part in the democratic process.

The Council of Europe last year gave the UK six months to implement the Strasbourg court’s judgments.

But MPs voted in support of the current situation to deprive prisoners of the right to vote by a majority of 234 to 22 against.

Sheena Walker, 40, sister of Dawn Walker, 40, whose body was found beside the River Lark in Fornham Park, near Bury St Edmunds, in February, 2005, said she was pleased by Parliament’s resolution.

“It is a fantastic result,” she said. “Prisoners are in jail to be punished, not rewarded by being part of society. These people don’t respect other people’s human rights so why should we respect theirs?”

Were they right to deny prisoners the right to vote? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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