Prisoner Voting

Written evidence submitted by John Hirst


I am John Hirst who took Hirst v UK (No2) to the ECtHR, and the Council of Europe has confirmed in writing that I own the case bearing my name by viture of intellectual property right.


I watched with interest the "Political and Constitutional Reform Committee hears from legal experts on prisoner voting". And, given that "A backbench debate on voting by prisoners will be held in the House of Commons Chamber shortly, and the committee's session is intended to inform that debate".


I wonder if it would be possible for me, as a legal expert, to add my comments in your report to be published?


I am aware from listening to the Parliament TV programme that the meeting was arranged at short notice. Nevertheless, I am disappointed that my being the foremost authority of the leading case on prisoners votes that I was not invited to give evidence.


I have High-functioning autism (Aspergers Syndrome) and the benefit of this is that I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of constitutional law, administrative law, public law, private law, prison law, international law, and European law as it applies to my case. My attention to detail is needle sharp, and the devil is in the detail.


It is in everybody's interest that I am heard, because a failure to do so will only lead to even more problems further down the road. Ignore me at your peril. When I transformed from a lawbreaker to a law-maker, my desire was to also reform the criminal justice and penal systems. Like a poacher turned gamekeeper I know where the traps are laid. My case is very simple, and straight forward. It becomes complex when there is any attempt to deviate from the Court judgment, the straight and narrow path, because the danger comes then from entering a legal minefield. I know because I laid the mines. It is in the UK's best interest not to have these blow up in faces.


I feel I ought to point out that the Backbench Business Committee's motion is flawed in that it claims Hirst v UK (No2) "held that there had been no substantive debate by members of the legislature on the continued justification for maintaining a general restriction on the right of prisoners to vote; acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK". It was not held by the Court at all, rather this was part of my argument which the Court accepted as a valid point.

Secondly, I would contend that this motion is an attempt to mislead Parliament and as such would be a contempt of Parliament if it was not amended before next Thursday. It is untruthful for the Backbench Business Committee to claim that it "acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK". The evidence is to the contrary. So far, Jack Straw and David Davis can be shown to have made untruthful statements. Presently, so far, only Dominic Raab is in the clear. However, I will be watching his every move and listening to his every word to ensure that he stays the right side of the law.


Whilst it may be a valid point that "legislative decisions of this nature should be a matter for democratically elected lawmakers", it needs to be borne in mind that Parliament abdicated responsibility in this matter previously and I caught Parliament bang to rights. There is a big legal question mark over whether the present Parliament has been democratically elected, given that a large section of society which should have cast their votes at the last general election were denied the opportunity.

This part "and supports the current situation in which no sentenced prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand" obviously contradicts this part "acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK".


I noticed several inaccuracies and oversights during your session. And also the issue of what is reasonable cropped up. My understanding of this is the Wednesbury reasonableness test. It is unreasonable for a decision-maker to take into account irrelevant factors and to fail to take into account relevant factors. 


I trust that you will take into account my offer of assistance in what Lord Mackay of Clashfern referred to in his evidence as "The Hirst Problem"? In Frodl v Austria the Chamber referred to the Hirst test. Unless the UK meets this it will not be free of the shackles of guilt and shame attached for not remedying the breach of human rights under the Convention.