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A Perfect Storm: Parliament and Prisoner Disenfranchisement

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin MurrayORCiD


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In Hirst v UK (No. 2) the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Representation of the People Act 1983 breached the right of prisoners to vote under Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Since then, much of the delay in reform has been premised on an understanding that the disenfranchisement of prisoners has been a consistent feature of the United Kingdom’s history as a parliamentary democracy. Both parliamentary debates and consultation documents on prisoner disenfranchisement, however, have overlooked the complex history of prisoner participation in the political process in the United Kingdom, with large sections of the prison population being enfranchised after the Second World War. This article examines why the ability of some prisoners to take part in elections in the post-war era has been ignored in the current debate and the different discourses (including penal populism, Euro-scepticism, juridification and the trivialisation of human rights) which, as a result of this neglect, have emerged to dominate parliamentary debate over prisoner enfranchisement. The article also how these discourses threaten to exacerbate the fissures within the Coalition Government.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Murray C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Parliamentary Affairs

Year: 2013

Volume: 66

Issue: 3

Pages: 511-539

Print publication date: 24/01/2012

ISSN (print): 0031-2290

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2482

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/pa/gsr071


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