If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

And more wrong

Following from the previous post, some more thoughts.

The case for prisoners' voting rights was brought to the European Commission on Human Rights by the convicted murderer John Hirst. In 2005 the ECHR ruled that a blanket ban on prisoner voting was discriminatory and breached the human rights of prisoners.

I can see that being able to vote in your country's elections is a fundamental right, but then so is the freedom to come and go as you please. It's OK to remove the prisoner's human right to freedom of movement, which is what imprisonment means, so it is not unknown for prisoners to lose human rights when they are convicted. Why should the right to vote be any different? If you follow that argument to its logical end, then we won't do anything to criminals at all, as every sanction involves some interference with a person's rights at some level.

Hirst's argument is that without the vote prisoners are unable to put pressure on Parliament to improve conditions and change the law. That's how it ought to be. Want to be able to vote and influence the lawmakers? Don't murder people. Simples.

Hirst has released a celebratory video, in which he drinks champagne and smokes a joint to celebrate his 'victory'. I won't link to it; it's vile. Find it and watch it if you must. And remember, while you are doing so, that the man in the film was convicted of murdering his landlady by bludgeoning her to death with an axe. He felt 'nagged' by her after she asked him to bring in some coal. And he's passionate about human rights.

If you need an argument for the death penalty, this is it. I have always been against capital punishment, but this case tests my principles to the limit.

UPDATE 4.11.10:

I referred to Hirst above as a 'murderer'. That is incorrect. Apparently, he was convicted of manslaughter, on the grounds of 'diminished responsibility'. I'm sure that makes the world of difference to the lady he killed. I should have referred to him in this post as an 'axe-killer' rather than a 'murderer', and of course I am happy to correct this.


  1. The pragmatic solution is to ban Postal Voting, except where the voter is abroad.

  2. Ban postal voting? Surely, it would accord with their human rights to have a polling station within the prison itself, so they didn't have to walk far. Under Labour, it would have been manned by prisoners, and with prisoners to remove, store and eventually deliver the ballot papers to the Returning Officer. And perhaps a trusty on each floor who would check that the ballots had been filled in 'correctly' and collect and take them in bulk to the voting room.

    I despair.


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