New Judgment: R (Chester) v Secretary of State for Justice; McGeoch v The Lord President of the Council & Anor  UKSC 63
16 Wednesday Oct 2013
The appellants, both prisoners serving life sentences, sought judicial review of UK provisions containing a general prohibition on voting by prisoners.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed both appeals. Applying the principles in the ECtHR authorities of Hirst (No 2) and Scoppola, the first appellant was a victim for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 and so was entitled to bring a claim, but that did not necessarily entitle him to any particular remedy. It was held that there was no point in making a declaration of incompatibility in this case, as the prohibition of prisoner voting within the UK is already the subject of a declaration of incompatibility made in Smith v Scott and is currently under review by Parliament. Also, in any event the first appellant would not benefit from a remedy of the present incompatibility of UK law with the ECHR as he is serving a life sentence.
Regarding the claims under EU law, it was held that the provisions on voting in applicable Treaties focus on safeguarding freedom of movement through ensuring equal treatment between EU citizens residing in Member States other than that of their nationality. This did not confer an individual right to vote on which the appellants could rely, and even if it did the principle of non-discrimination would still not be engaged as convicted prisoners serving their sentences are not in a comparable position to persons not in prison. The resolution of these appeals did not require a reference to the CJEU.