Show Summary Details
This content is available to you

Lions under the Throne: the Constitutional Implications of the Debate on Prisoner Enfranchisement

Georgina Bryan

Keywords: Prisoner enfranchisement; ECHR compliance; Parliamentary sovereignty; rule of law

This article considers the constitutional implications of the tenor of the enduring debate on the United Kingdom's compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Hirst v United Kingdom (No. 2) [2005] ECtHR 74025/01. Discussion of the enfranchisement of prisoners has been characterised by parliamentary reluctance to engage with the nexus between law and politics, and a strong tendency for concerns about the ECtHR to spill over into reckless denigration of the legal sphere as a whole. As such, the tone of debate on this high-profile issue is liable to erode mutual respect between the legislature and the courts, and to diminish the perceived legitimacy of the legal system. In a nation with an uncodified constitution, the effect of such erosion should not be underestimated. The true danger of the Hirst debate, this article contends, is that continued non-compliance will entrench mistrust of law, the rule of law and the judiciary, thereby allowing concerns about the Strasbourg court not only to undermine the UK's international standing, but also to destabilise the constitutional balance closer to home.

Full Text

The full text of this journal article is available as a pdf