Once again today, the ECHR has said that Britain should allow prisoners to have the vote. This is a debate that has been raging for a while now, and the last time this decision was reached Cameron said the idea of giving prisoners the vote made him “sick to my stomach”. However, again today, the European Court of Human Rights has said that Britain’s blanket ban is unlawful.
It is worth reminding students, at this point, of the difference between the EU and ECHR: the ECHR comes from the Council of Europe, a body set up post-WWII to deal with human rights. The EU was initially a trade organisation and, while this has spread out since it’s inception, it is not responsible for human rights legislation. The court of the EU is the European Court of Justice and they enforce and rule on matters to do with EU treaties. Britain is a member of both of these organisations. Students frequently fall foul of this saying that human rights are protected by the EU – they are NOT; it is the ECHR that does this.
This is a useful example of how Parliament arguably remains sovereign but also of how rights in the UK could be said to be poorly protected by our uncodified constitution.