April 2011 articles archive:

Prisoners' vote ban update – the clock is now ticking

With the majority of member countries of the Council of Europe having a form of restriction on prisoners' rights to vote the days of our blanket ban seem numbered.

With the majority of member countries of the Council of Europe having a form of restriction on prisoners' rights to vote the days of our blanket ban seem numbered.

 

Some 60% of member countries restrict prisoners' voting rights to some extent, so by doing away with a blanket ban and replacing it with a specific ban on prisoners voting if they are serving anything but short term sentences should not pose any real problems for the present government. It may be a 'bitter pill' for Mr David Cameron to swallow but it might be better for him to take the medicine than prevaricate.

 

Mr Cameron may feel '….physically ill to contemplate giving the vote to prisoners' but we have every reason to try and ensure that a democratically elected leader is capable of leading a government at the moment and you either believe in human rights and can willingly embrace such a concept or you don't. You cannot pick and choose – we are after all a member of the European Human Rights Convention. We are also members of the UN as well as NATO and are currently engaged in the use of military force, along with other European allies to protect innocent citizens elsewhere in the world.

 

The European Court of Human Rights has now given a further ruling to the effect that the UK has six months from the 11 April 2011 to introduce legislative proposals to replace the existing blanket ban. This may not be the type of reform of the voting system the coalition government were thinking of but that’s government for you!

Restorative Justice, the way forward?

An opportunity for the victim to ask the offender the questions that haunt them and a time for the offender to realise the effect of their actions on the victim and their families.

Criminal justice reform proposals are currently being developed and looked at by ministers. They are looking at widening the use of Restorative Justice to cover low level crime and anti social behaviour. Consultations are taking place and a letter, signed by the parents of Jimmy Mizen amongst others, has been printed in the Times.

 

The call from subscribers to the letter and backed by the former Attorney General Lord Falconer and the former chief inspector of prisons Dame Anne Owers, is for the ministers to “ensure through legislation that this process is offered to all victims of crime, whenever an offender pleads guilty to their offence and agrees to participate”

 

Research shows that the majority of victims choose to take part in restorative justice meetings to take place with their offenders when this is offered. It also cuts re-offending by at least 14% according to statistics.

 

Jimmy Mizen was stabbed to death by a group of youths, surely his parents, having had such tragic personal experience, should be listened to. Jimmy Mizen's killer was sentenced to life in prison and told he would serve at least 14 years behind bars. In the meantime how many questions were left unanswered that his parents needed to ask but were unable to?

 

Restorative justice surely has a place in the justice system for the victim or the victim's family to help them to come to terms with what has happened and to try to draw a line under the event as well as making the offender more aware and accountable for the grief and heartache he has caused.

 

Victoria Fabian, 33, suffered severe leg injuries in the explosion in March 2010. Her eight-year-old son, also in the car, and her unborn child were unhurt. It appears that her husband had stolen a hand grenade and strapped it to the inside of a wheel arch. A nylon line was attached to the grenade pin at one end and a fishing hook at the other. The intention was that as the wheel moved the safety pin on the grenade would be pulled out.

 

Nicholas Fabian, 33, was also found guilty of causing an explosion likely to endanger life, after less than an hour of deliberation by the jury at Maidstone Crown Court. A charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent was discharged.

 

Victoria has not had the chance to speak to her husband face to face since the incident as she was in hospital recovering from the incident when she was told her husband had been arrested for the crime. He has written to her since his sentence and although she has not responded to the letter he sent they are going to meet. She is hoping that this meeting will enable her to ask the questions she has that remain unanswered and is hoping it will help her to understand why he wanted to kill her and why he let her son, Charlie, get into the car.

 

There appears to be a need, in many cases, for the victim or the victim's family to meet the offender and in some cases there are signs that there can be a positive outcome for the offender. This must add some weight to the case for restorative justice to be promoted and to have a place in the criminal justice system.

 

The Ministry of Justice says that restorative justice is “already widely used in the youth justice system”

 

 

 

 

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