Today (Wednesday), Plaid Cymru will call for all prisoners in Wales to be able to vote in Assembly and local elections. Their plans will be backed by the Welsh Labour-led Government despite no mention of such reforms in their manifestos.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Welsh Labour manifesto had zero mentions of the words prison or prisoners, the Plaid manifesto two, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats – whose only AM is a member of the Welsh Government – three.
None of these referenced prisoner voting rights.
The publicly unpopular demands will be made in an Assembly debate, when Plaid will also call for an end to custodial sentences for young people and women other than in “exceptional circumstances” and the full devolution of criminal justice to Wales.
This is despite there being no popular mandate for such transfer of powers, the law already stating young people are only imprisoned in exceptional circumstances, and the UK Government’s commitment to reducing the number of women prisoners.
The Welsh Labour-led Government’s amendment will only delete the calls for the full devolution of justice, but will still commit to delivering votes for prisoners without popular support.
Under UK law, prisoners serving custodial sentences are banned from voting. However, to comply with a European Court of Human Rights ruling, the UK Government announced plans to give prisoners released on temporary licence or on home detention curfew, the vote.
The Equality and Communities Committee are currently undertaking an inquiry into voting rights for prisoners, and any support for today’s motion would be pre-empting the inquiry.
A 2017 YouGov survey found that a majority of Britons did not want any prisoners to have the franchise, and that a greater proportion of those in Wales and the Midlands were against such plans, with 60% of those questioned opposed.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Communities Minister Mark Isherwood AM, said:
“If the Assembly were to give all prisoners the vote, it will go down like a cup of cold sick with the public.
“The taxpaying and law-abiding citizens of Wales have not been consulted on this matter in an election and will be furious to learn of the intention to give voting rights to prisoners at a time when public trust in the political establishment is low.
“Labour, Plaid, and the Lib Dems have not won the debate with the public on this, so have no mandate to force it through. Any attempt to pre-empt inquiries is an affront to the democratic procedures of the Assembly they profess to love.
“Plaid Cymru say they are holding this to enhance the human rights of prisoners: but what about the human rights of victims that were violated by murderers, terrorists, rapists, and paedophiles?
“My question to the public is: did you vote for this?”