Prisoner Robert Greens in European court voting bid

By Ross Hawkins
Political correspondent, BBC News

Image caption,
Robert Greens is serving a 10-year prison sentence

A convicted rapist in Scotland has launched a legal bid to get prisoners the vote in time for May's elections.

Robert Greens won a case last year in the European Court of Human Rights demanding the UK give inmates the vote.

The Strasbourg court gave the UK six months to change the law.

But Greens is appealing to try to force the UK government to change the law before May's Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland elections and local elections in England.

He is attempting to obtain a tougher ruling against British ministers and has applied for the case to be referred to the grand chamber of the European Court.

Blanket ban

Greens' legal team want the court to tell the British government exactly how the law should be changed to allow prisoners to vote, and to change it in time for him to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections on May 5.

Greens' solicitor, Tony Kelly, said: "We want the government to bring in legislation to give prisoners the vote tomorrow."

The application for the referral will be considered by a panel of five judges at the Strasbourg court.

It suspends the original judgement which demanded the UK bring forward proposals to change the law within six months.

Robert Greens, who was convicted of raping a Dutch student at Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh in 2005, brought the original case with another prisoner referred to as MT.

Both were refused the vote in the 2008 European Parliament elections.

Last year the government said it would introduce legislation to allow offenders sentenced to a custodial sentence of less than four years to retain the right to vote.

But earlier this month the House of Commons voted to keep the current blanket ban on prisoner votes in place.

In 2005 the European Court of Human Rights upheld a ruling that Britain's ban on prisoner's voting was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, in a case brought by another prisoner - John Hirst.

Ambassadors at the Council of Europe's decision making body - the Committee of Ministers - will discuss the Hirst case in March.

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