Prisoners’ right to vote upheld by Supreme Court

Drive 10/11/2018
Photo: Getty.

The Supreme Court has ruled that banning prisoners from their right to vote in New Zealand is inconsistent with the country’s Bill of Rights.

In its judgement on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision from the High Court that courts had jurisdiction to make a declaration of inconsistency on the Bill of Rights.

Prisoners serving a sentence of three years or more were banned from voting in a unanimous decision from Parliament in 1993.

But in 2010, a law change banned all prisoners serving a sentence from voting.

Veteran criminal Arthur Taylor was in a group of prisoners who went to the High Court to argue that the law change contradicted basic human rights.

In 2015, Justice Paul Heath declared the ban to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The Crown appealed that decision all the way to the highest court, and lost.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says he also disagrees with the 2010 law change.

“I think prisoners who are sentenced to less than three years should be able to vote... because at some point they’re going to be released from prison within that electoral term,” he told RadioLIVE.

Parliament's Privilege Committee will now work out how and if to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling.

Listen to the full interview with Justice Minister Andrew Little above.

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