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Hirst v. The United Kingdom (No. 2), No. 74025/01, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 6 October 2005

Type Judgment
Case number 74025/01


Exclusion from the exercise of the right to vote in national and local elections for persons sentenced to imprisonment.

Normative references

Art. 3 Prot. 1 ECHR


1. The right to free elections, guaranteed by Article 3 Prot. 1 of the ECHR, is fundamental to establishing and maintaining the foundations of a democracy. However, these rights may encounter certain limitations, provided that these are imposed in accordance with the criteria of legality and proportionality. Furthermore, the Court recalls that the margin of appreciation left to the Contracting States in the area of the right to vote of prisoners is wide, but not all-encompassing.

2. A limitation of the right to vote in respect of prisoners that is applied indiscriminately, namely without taking into account the length of the sentence, the nature of the offence, its gravity or the individual circumstances of the prisoner, constitutes a violation of Article 3 of Prot. 1 of the ECHR. This means that when the restriction on the right to vote is absolute in nature and is applied indiscriminately to all prisoners, it constitutes a violation of the right to vote that cannot fall within any acceptable margin of appreciation.
(The applicant, while serving a life sentence for manslaughter, was released on "licence" in 2004. However, as a prisoner English law prevents him from exercising his right to vote at any level).