Prisoners lose legal fight for vote in referendum

Two prisoners have lost their fight for a vote. Picture: PA
Two prisoners have lost their fight for a vote. Picture: PA
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TWO prisoners have lost a legal battle to get a vote in the independence referendum.

Convicted murderers Leslie Moohan and Andrew Gillon, who are serving life sentences, had claimed the ban breaches their human rights, but the Supreme Court dismissed the claims in London.

The ruling was welcomed by the Scottish Government and opposition parties who had warned a defeat would have had “disastrous consequences”.

But the issue has split opinion in Scotland, with other political leaders arguing some inmates should get the vote to help with their rehabilitation. Prisoners in most European countries can already vote. The prisoners’ claims had already been dismissed by judges north of the Border.

Gillon was jailed for the killing of Gary Johnstone, 25, who was battered to death with a spade in Bathgate.

Moohan was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years after he murdered father-of-two David Redpath from Peterhead at a hostel in Edinburgh.

Gillon will be eligible for release later this year, while Moohan will not get out until at least 2023.

Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger told lawyers the prisoners’ appeals were dismissed after a day-long hearing. The court’s reasons for its decision will be given later.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss today’s appeal. This confirms that the approach taken in the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 is compatible with European Convention on Human Rights and European Union law, and that convicted prisoners currently serving a custodial sentence will not be able to vote in the referendum.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell added: “This appeal, had it been successful, would have had disastrous consequences, not least for the proposed EU referendum in 2017. We remain resolute in our opposition to granting the vote to prisoners.”

But some politicians had backed the call for some prisoners to be handed the vote.

Green party leader Patrick Harvie and Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes both proposed changes to the franchise for the referendum which would have allowed short-term prisoners the vote. They argued that this would help with their rehabilitation.

Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland. Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine all give prisoners the vote.

When the Court of Session in Scotland kicked out the case last year, Mr Harvie described it as a “missed opportunity”.

newsen@edinburghnews.com