Sunday, 9 November 2008

But Dale is also an arse...

Despite what I said below, Iain Dale is being a bit of an arse in his post about prisoners voting rights. Quite apart from the pointless mischaracterisation of Lib Dem policy (he seems to imply that the Lib Dems want the judges to force prisoner voting rights on the UK), he seems to be oblivious of the concept of how a democracy works.

First - any democracy needs to have a judiciary whose role is to make sure that the constitution is complied with. In the US that job is much easier because there is a written constitution and a strict separation of powers which sets out the duty of the judiciary to overrule the other two branches of government where they believe that the law is unjust. But even in the UK, there is a place for judges who are prepared to say that the system is unfair. The Courts did so recently when they said that gurkhas who had served the UK should have the right to stay in the country.

So for Dale to say that judges making law is a bad thing is to misunderstand the way democracy works. Where Parliament is unfair, it is the job of judges to act.

Now I am happy to accept that many people think that prisoner voting is a bad thing. But I disagree with them. I believe that the task of prisons is to rehabilitate prisoners. If we strip them of their voting rights then we send them (yet another) message that they are not part of society. I believe that allowing prisoners the right to vote (by post for the constituency they were living in before sentencing) could be beneficial for rehabilitation. Almost half the countries of Europe allow prisoners to vote and I have seen how it works in practice when I was an election observer in Ukraine. With small modifications (prisoners had no choice about when to vote - only whether), prisoner voting works in even the newest democracies and in person.

I do believe that judges should have the right to strip prisoners of their right to vote as an extra punishment. Personally, I would only do so for people who had committed electoral fraud. But I accept that this is a matter worthy of debate.

Dale is not engaging in debate but using the subject as a means of beating up Euro judges. And that is why he is being an arse.

2 comments:

Miller 2.0 said...

"But even in the UK, there is a place for judges who are prepared to say that the system is unfair. The Courts did so recently when they said that gurkhas who had served the UK should have the right to stay in the country."

With respect, I agree with your broader point, but this is a massively simplified argument. The job of judges is always and should always be to enforce the law.

The real question is whether or not jurisprudence based on existing common and statute law builds in principles of fairness, and the like.

Even the activist judges of the US don't claim the right to insert principles extraneously into constitutional dialogue; however they may extrapolate principles from existing law in a different way to conservative judges.

None of this, by the way, stops Dale looking like he's turned up to the wrong ballpark.

jailhouselawyer said...

I think you are giving Dale too much credit being a whole arse. Personally, I think he is a arsehole.

It was pointless his mischaracterisation of myself as "the despicable John Hirst".

I have blogged the section of the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, which criticises the government's failure to respond to the ECtHR decision in my case. It is obvious Iain Dale has not bothered to read it before spouting off, which just goes to prove my point that he does not have his finger on the political pulse in this country.

I will be responding to him in full in a blog post asap.