SECRETARIAT GENERAL

SECRETARIAT OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
SECRETARIAT DU COMITE DES MINISTRES

Contact: Simon Palmer
Tel: 03.88.41.26.12

Date: 11/01/2010

DH - DD(2010)3

Item reference: Communication by an NGO in the case Hirst No.2 against the United Kingdom (Application No. 74025/01) and response of the Government.

Information made available under Rules 9.2 and 9.3 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of judgments.

* * *

Référence du point : Communication par une ONG dans l'affaire Hirst n° 2 (Requête n° 74025/01) contre le Royaume-Uni et observations du gouvernement. (anglais uniquement)

Informations mises à disposition en vertu des Règles 9.2 et 9.3 des Règles du Comité des Ministres pour la surveillance de l’exécution des arrêts.

This document will be declassified after the 1078th DH meeting, in accordance with Rule 8 (Access to information) of the rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of judgments and of the terms of friendly settlements. Ce document sera déclassifié à l’issue de la 1078e réunion DH conformément à la règle 8 (Accès aux informations) des Règles du Comité des Ministres pour la surveillance de l’exécution des arrêts et des termes des règlements amiables.

The National Association of Reformed Offenders


Secretary to the Committee of Ministers

Council of Europe
Avenue de l’Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex

16 December 2009

Dear Secretary to the Committee of Ministers,

Hirst v UK (No. 2) judgement


UNLOCK


I write to you under Rule 9 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of judgements and of the terms of friendly settlements.

I refer to UNLOCK’s previous letter to you dated 8 April 2009 concerning the undue delay in the implementation of the ECHR judgement in Hirst v UK (No. 2) by the UK Government.
I am now writing in regard the UK Government’s response to the Committee’s Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2009)160 in which you “expressed serious concern as regards the substantial delay in implementing the judgment which creates a significant risk that the next United Kingdom general election, which must take place by June 2010, will be performed in a way that fails to comply with the Convention. And further, you urged [the UK Government] to “rapidly adopt...the measures necessary to implement the judgment of the Court”.
Your attention is drawn yesterday’s Parliamentary exchange (HL Deb, 15 December 2009, c1393) when Lord Ramsbotham asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice: when the Government intended to legislate to lift the complete ban on convicted prisoners voting. The response was: “My Lords, the Government note, of course, the interim resolution by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers' Deputies in this case. We have, as I have told the House, recently completed a two-stage consultation. We are carefully analysing the response. We take our obligations seriously, but we have to arrive at an approach which respects the judgment of the court and the political context and traditions of the United Kingdom. If the concerns of the European Court expressed in Hirst were not remedied by the next general election would not, in the Government's view, call into question the legality of the elections themselves as challenges go to the right of individual prisoners to take part in the elections rather than the legality of the elections themselves. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldhansrd/text/91215-0002.htm

It is apparent that Government does not share the concern of the Committee regarding non-compliance. This would apparently confirm a previous report in the Evening Standard newspaper (‘Straw: Prisoners won’t be able to vote until after general election’; 8 October 2009) which claimed that the Justice Secretary ‘plans to ensure there is no change ahead of polling day, expected next May’. It also quoted a ‘source close to’ the Justice Secretary as saying "Complying with European rulings that effectively grant extra rights is not as important as responding in other cases." The article is available at http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23754049-straw-prisoners-wont-be-able-to-vote-until-after-general-election.do

Further, when pressed on the timing of legislation in order to implement the ECHR judgement, the Government response was “My Lords, we will respond when we are ready to respond. We hope that it will be soon, but these are complicated and complex matters. I believe that the Opposition agree with us that this is not an easy matter. It is not clear, for example, that popular feeling is anything other than strictly against this proposal.

In the view of UNLOCK it is clear that the Government has no intention of legislating on the matter before the next general election and UNLOCK urges the Committee of Ministers to take all possible action to remedy the situation so that come the election at least part of the prison population will be enfranchised.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely

Julie Wright LLB FRSA
Deputy Chief Exceutive

Email: Julie.wright@unlock.org.uk

T: 01634 247350
F: 01634 247351
W: www.unlock.org.uk

UK Government response to the UNLOCK Submission

The Government acknowledges the concerns expressed in the interim resolution made by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in the case of Hirst (No 2). The Government takes its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights seriously and is committed to implementing the Hirst (No 2) judgment.
To achieve this, we have completed a two stage consultation process and we are carefully analysing the responses to the second-stage consultation.
The UK Government is giving the issue full consideration in order to reach an appropriate solution.
The Committee of Ministers did note in its Interim Resolution that the United Kingdom authorities have provided detailed information as regards the consultation process, and that we are committed to continuing to do so.

8 January 2010



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