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Prisoners have no right to vote under EU law

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Prisoners have no right to vote under EU law


22 October 2013

The Supreme Court issued its decision in the conjoined cases of Chester v The Secretary of State for Justice and McGeoch v The Lord President of the Council. In McGeoch, the prisoner argued that he had a direct right to vote under the EU citizen provisions (Article 20) of TFEU, read with the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 39 and 40) in local/municipal, Scottish Parliament and European Parliament elections. The Supreme Court had little difficulty rejecting that argument.

The case is of interest for the discussion about the circumstances in which the Court will not follow ECtHR judgments (recalling that the obligation of the Court is to “take account of” such case law under section 2(1) of the Human Rights Act). In any event, there is no individual right to vote imported via ECtHR jurisprudence to EU law. The case also puts at an end any doubt that the Scottish Parliament is not a legislature for the purposes of Article 3, Protocol 1 of ECHR. And Scottish Parliament elections are not “municipal” elections under the relevant TFEU Article.

Of further interest, is the Court’s reminder that the general principle of non-discrimination in EU law can only be applied where the particular right falls within the scope of EU law.

Finally, even had there been a right to vote under EU law, at best the remedy would have been a generally phrased declarator.

Ruth Crawford, QC appeared with the Attorney General to represent the Lord President of Council.

Chester v Secretary of State for Justice and McGeoch v The Lord President of Council [2013] UKSC 63