General Article Prisoner's rights: Westminster clashes with Strasbourg

Topic Selected: Human Rights
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By John Humphrys

Who should decide what rights we should have? And what should those rights be? Those are the two stark questions that divided opinion this week when the House of Commons clashed with the European Court of Human Rights over the answers. The British Government has been left with a delicate problem to solve and the way it does could have far-reaching implications for our relationship with Europe.

The specific issue of contention is whether prisoners in Britain should have the right to vote. Since Parliament passed the Forfeiture Act in 1870, prisoners, except those on remand or those imprisoned for default or contempt, have been denied the right to vote. But in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that this breached human rights and ordered the British Government to bring in legislation to rectify the situation. It has until this August to do so.

David Cameron has said that the very idea of giving prisoners the right to vote makes him feel ph...

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