Home > Cases > R (Chester) v Secretary of State for Justice and another [2009] EWHC 2923 (Admin)

The claimant was a ‘post-tariff lifer’: in other words, a convicted person, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, but of whom had served his minimum term. Accordingly, the claimant was eligible for release, subject to a finding by the parole board that he did not continue to pose a risk to the public. At all material times, however, the claimant remained incarcerated at HMP Wakefield. On a date in 2008, the Electoral Services Officer from the second defendant local authority, which was the body responsible for the electorate in Wakefield, informed the claimant that he was not entitled to vote in the then forthcoming European parliamentary election. The claimant applied for judicial review, lodging pre-action protocol letters with the first defendant Secretary of State and the authority. He asserted, in essence, that his disenfranchisement from voting in the European parliamentary election (and, indeed, any United Kingdom election) was contrary to European law. He sought inter alia a declaration, under s 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998, that s 3 of the 1983 Act was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly art 3 of the First Protocol to the Convention.

Held: Relief refused. The declarations sought by the claimant were inappropriate. A declaration of incompatibility in relation to s 3 of the 1983 Act had already been made in a previous UK case, which was binding authority. As for s 8 of the 2002 Act, neither of the claimant’s proposed interpretations of that section could provide a remedy. To accede to the claimant’s submissions on a ‘reading down’ of s 8 would mean that its nature would be dramatically changed, the legislation would be fundamentally altered, and piecemeal changes would result. The declaration sought at (iv) constituted an impermissible attempt to interfere with Parliamentary processes. It was for Parliament to decide on whether or not prisoners, either generally or a more restricted class, should be entitled to vote in elections; particularly as there were matters of sensitive social policy at play.

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