Court cor­rect in pris­oner vot­ing case

The Southland Times - - National News - Ca­trin Owen

The High Court was act­ing within its power when it de­clared prison in­mates had the right to vote, the Supreme Court has ruled.

In 2013, vet­eran crim­i­nal and ‘‘prison lawyer’’ Arthur Tay­lor suc­cess­fully took the Gov­ern­ment to the High Court over prison­ers’ rights to vote. Five years on, the Supreme Court has up­held the orig­i­nal High Court de­ci­sion.

The at­tor­ney-gen­eral ap­pealed that de­ci­sion to the coun­try’s high­est court.

In the Supreme Court judg­ment, Chief Jus­tice Dame Sian Elias said Tay­lor was right to ap­ply for a dec­la­ra­tion that a law change in 2010 was in breach of the rights of sen­tenced prison­ers to vote.

‘‘Mr Tay­lor can­not be treated as a busy-body with no suf­fi­cient in­ter­est in vin­di­ca­tion of the rights of prison­ers,’’ she said.

Tay­lor had sought a dec­la­ra­tion that the blan­ket ban on prison­ers vot­ing con­tra­dicted ba­sic hu­man rights. At the heart of the case put to the Supreme Court in March was that vot­ing was a pro­tected right that re­quired a 75 per cent ‘‘su­per ma­jor­ity’’ of Par­lia­ment to change it, which the 2010 law did not have.

In 1993, Par­lia­ment was unan­i­mous that any­one serv­ing a sen­tence of three years or more should be de­prived of their vote.

How­ever, the 2010 law change meant all prison­ers serv­ing a sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment were banned from vot­ing.

The ban on all prison­ers vot­ing was passed with a sim­ple ma­jor­ity.

In 2015, Jus­tice Paul Heath for­mally de­clared the ban to be in­con­sis­tent with the New Zea­land Bill of Rights Act.

The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion wel­comed the Supreme Court judg­ment in the land­mark case and had par­tic­i­pated as an in­ter­vener in the Tay­lor lit­i­ga­tion at the Court of Ap­peal and in the Supreme Court.

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