The right to vote in the UK is considered by many to be a privilege as well as an entitlement, and that persons who are convicted of an offence serious enough to warrant a term in prison have cast aside that privilege and entitlement for the duration of their sentence.’
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 ...
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Others thought that this is a fundamental right to express a person’s participation and submission to social contract. But this, as a universal right, is not without limitations. Nations all over the world legislated policies that constitutionally guarantee the right of suffrage but also bar its exercise when a person is convicted of a crime.
They compose of such rights as freedom of expression, equal treatment before the law and the right to life among others. Here, there is freedom of expression which thus gives people the right to protest as long as they do not infringe into other people’s rights or break the law.
Interpretation, in this case, for compliance may be in conflict with the intent of the legislation. This is considered as a last resort measure with an array of superior courts having the ability to issue such a declaration of incompatibility. The declaration does not bind the parties nor can it lead to the invalidation of legislation (Clements, 2008: p21).
The House of Lords in the UK can be traced back to the 14th century, from where it has developed with various changes to what people now call the second chamber or upper house in the UK constitution (parliament.uk, 2011). For centuries, it had always had an upper hand in the work of the government, by either supporting or refuting the discussions of the common house.
Public law on the other hand refers to the standards and rules specifying responsibilities and privileges among private individuals and the government. Public law is also regarded as the rules and regulations that control responsibilities and privileges in a situation between a member of the public and the government.
BBC) will be used in this discussion as a means of taking a look at case law with reference to the Human Rights Act of 1998. This discussion is meant to critically analyze the statement made by Lord Hoffman as well as the Human Rights Act of 1998.
While the United Kingdom does not have a formal written and codified Constitution, there is an unwritten set of rules comprised of the Acts of Parliament, judicial decisions as well as political practices that form the basis of
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