Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Votes For Prisoners And The Peril Of Judicial Activism

The European Court of Human Rights judgement isn’t a judgement about human rights or prisoner’s rights.  What it represents is a startling illumination of the amount of power given to unelected, unaccountable judges in British society.

Whether or not prisoners should be allowed to vote is an issue that has strong arguments marshalled on either side of the debate.  On one side, some suggest that prisoners should be deprived of their liberties (including the right to vote) while incarcerated.  On the other side, others argue that giving prisoners the right to vote is crucial to their successful resettlement in society.

There are compelling arguments on both sides.  But is should be for elected politicians, not unelected judges to make a call on the matter.  It is a sad truth about modern Britain that a judge, who was not elected; who comes from a narrow social background; is pretty much out of touch with modern Britain (or Europe for that matter); an is entirely unaccountable, has more power than the vast majority of elected representatives.

The judiciary haven’t, after all got an exemplary record of protecting freedoms.  As Michael Foot famously said:

It does so happen to be the case that if the freedom of the people of this country…if those precious things in the past had been left to the good sense and fairmindedness of judges, we would have precious few freedoms in this country.

Surely it is about time that our democratic institutions took back control of decision making and policy making from activist judges who are playing a bigger and more pernicious role in public life.  Judicial activism in the United Kingson can only mean a weakening of democracy in the United Kingdom

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