Prisoner plan doesn't get my vote

DO you think that prisoners should get the vote?

This is an important issue, that goes to the heart of people's sense of fairness and common sense justice.

A couple of months ago, the Government stated that as a result of a European Court of Human Rights' ruling, the blanket ban on prisoners being able to vote in elections in this country was to be ended.

Just before Christmas, the Government issued a statement announcing its decision that prisoners serving a sentence of less than four years would be permitted to vote in elections.

As a result, under these proposals, some 29,000 prisoners will be allowed the vote. And this Tuesday, Parliament debated the matter.

The idea that prisoners should be allowed to vote will annoy many people in Hartlepool.

What I think on this issue is very clear.

By sending someone to prison, this country is punishing the criminal for acts of wrongdoing.

Part of this punishment is to deprive that criminal of his or her liberty.

Many people will associate that deprivation of liberty, quite rightly, with being locked up and not being able to come and go as they please.

But a more fundamental part of liberty, one that is often taken far too much for granted and something for which people have died, is the ability to participate in a say about the future of this country.

It therefore seems wrong and against common sense that prisoners are allowed to participate in voting.

No doubt some people in Hartlepool will be outraged about a court in Europe deciding something as fundamental as who is allowed to vote in British elections.

There's some truth in that: I believe that it should be the British people and Parliament who decide such matters.

In any event, other countries in Europe still operate a blanket ban so that no prisoners get the vote.

Other countries have abided by the wish of the European court, but have severely restricted it. So France, for instance, bans prisoners who have been convicted of certain crimes from voting.

Both Malta and Austria restrict the right to vote to prisoners serving a prison sentence of less than one year.

Britain should be considering the same thing.

There doesn't seem to be any convincing or sensible argument about the Government deciding on a sentence of four years.

Given that serious violent crimes may receive a tariff which falls within the four year period prisoners convicted of such crimes would be permitted to vote while still serving their sentence.

Do we really want, as a country, to have convicted criminals, such as rapists, allowed to vote? I don't think we do.

I really hope the Government will think about this decision again.

I genuinely believe the Prime Minister, David Cameron, when he states that the decision sickens him.

But I have to say to Mr Cameron, he is the Prime Minister, he does have the power to do something about this, like other countries have done. I hope he thinks again.