Nearly 6,000 inmates serving prison terms for violence will be given the right to vote under government plans, it was claimed.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan described the changes, which will see prisoners serving less than four years allowed to vote, as a “slap in the face for victims”.
In response to a written Parliamentary question, Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt told Labour MP Gavin Shuker (Luton South) that 5,991 inmates were serving less than four years for violence against another person.
Meanwhile, the same reforms will allow 1,753 sex offenders to vote, along with 2,486 robbers and 4,188 burglars. Some 4,370 people convicted of drug offences would also get the vote under the plans.
The changes have come about as a result of a long-running legal tussle between the British government and the European Court of Human Rights. Lawyers acting for the Government advised it could face a legal bill spiralling to millions of pounds in litigation costs and compensation if it failed to comply with a 2004 ECHR ruling which found a blanket ban on prisoner voting breached their human rights.
But the Government has secured a number of exemptions. Anyone serving four years or more will be barred from voting while judges will be given the discretion to stop those handed down a jail term of less than four years from casting a ballot while they are behind bars.
The new legislation – due to be tabled in Parliament next year – will grant prisoners the right to vote only in elections to Westminster and the European Parliament, meaning that they will not have a voice in ballots for directly-elected police chiefs.
The former Labour administration kicked the issue into the long grass with a series of consultations. But the Council of Europe warned earlier this year that the Government’s failure to comply with the ECHR ruling risked sparking many more compensation claims.
Mr Khan accused the Government of sneaking the latest figures over who was eligible to vote under the reforms just before Parliament broke up for Christmas.
He said: “This is a slap in the face for victims of crime. We have already seen the Conservative-led government break their promise on knife crime. Now they are also giving thousands of offenders the vote. MPs on all sides of the House and the public are right to be angry about this decision. But they should also be angry at the manner in which it was announced – sneaked out on the day Parliament broke up for Christmas.”