The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that British prisoners who were denied the vote should not receive compensation.
The Guardian reports that the court was ruling on a case brought by 10 prisoners in Scotland, including convicted sex offenders, who claimed that their human rights were breached when they were unable to vote in 2009’s European Elections.
Under UK law, prisoners are ineligible to vote, yet the ECHR has ruled on several occasions that a blanket ban on prisoner voting is unlawful. Successive British governments have refused to comply with the ruling, however, with Parliament voting overwhelming to reject it in February 2011.
The government warned at the time that it could be sued for millions if it refused to comply with the ruling, but the ECHR has now ruled that prisoners in fact cannot demand compensation, meaning that there is now little the European court can do to enforce its ruling.
Had the court ruled in the prisoners’ favour, it could have opened the flood gates for thousands of others to claim compensation for having been denied the vote.
The ruling comes as the president of the UK’s Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said that British judges have been “too ready” to follow decisions made the by the ECHR.
Lord Neuberger said: “UK judges have, I suspect, sometimes been too ready to assume that a decision – even a single decision of a section of that court – represents the law according to Strasbourg, and accordingly to follow it.
“That approach is attributable to our common-law attitude to precedent and to our relatively recent involvement with Strasbourg.
“I think we may sometimes have been too ready to treat Strasbourg court decisions as if they were determinations by a UK court whose decisions were binding on us.”