In 1867 the Reform Act extended voting rights so that labourers were also given the right to vote, followed by the introduction of the Representation of the People Act 1918, under which women of property obtained the right to vote. Ten years later the Representation of the People Act 1928 gave all women the right to vote.
Despite the right to vote being granted in 1689, many considered that certain persons should remain exempt from the right to vote, in particular those who had committed a criminal offence. This led to the introduction of the Forfeiture Act 1870, which specifically excluded those committed of a criminal offence from the right to vote. More recent legislation endorsed this view as was evidenced by the Representation of the People Act 1983 s3 which was further amended in the Representation of the People Act 1985 and 2000. At present the blanket ban remains in force for those persons who have received a criminal conviction. This is despite objections made by the United Nations in December 2001 in the Concluding Observations of its International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee. During this Convention the representatives expressed their opinion that denying prisoners the right to vote was a ‘principal subject of concern.’
The denial of the right to vote reached the attention of the media in 2005 when a prisoner by the name of Hirst took the case to the European Court of Human Rights1. The court in this case reached the conclusion that the automatic and indiscriminate restriction on the right of convicted prisoners to vote was incompatible with Art 3 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR. Under Art 3 it states ‘ The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.’ The ECHR stated that conviction of a criminal offence should not prevent that individual