At Last Prisoner Voting Law will be Changed

1. It all began in 2012 when I observed a jailhouse lawyer arguing a case beshackled in the court beside me in the High Court precinct. I wrote to him and we subsequently met in prison and decided to bring a case against the government to allow prisoners the right to vote.

2. The jailhouse lawyer was Arthur William Taylor, a man with an uncanny ability to advocate on his own behalf and others at all levels of the court system and win. In a case I believed could be a landmark decision against the government, Arthur was willing to put his name to the action notwithstanding the endless pressure prisoners face to drop their cases.

3. The legal problem was that no one in a common law country had ever successfully applied for the same remedy where there is no legislative authority to grant it The point to bear in mind is that this country's constitution has no entrenched Bill of Rights, and therefore, it is not possible for any court of the land to strike down legislation in breach of the Bill of Rights.

4. The next best thing is clearly a "Declaration of Inconsistency" (DOI) because it can lead to the same result, as illustrated in this case. The government has conceded that it is necessary to change the law due to the judgments of the Supreme Court and the Waitangi Tribunal. (Refer to the video uploaded).

5. The path to success for Arthur Taylor and his colleagues, was not an easy one, Right from the start, the Attorney-General applied to strike out the case in the High Court on the grounds that it could not reasonably succeed. However, after success in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, it is now clear that the law on prisoner voting will be changed to allow prisoners serving sentences of three years imprisonment or less to vote at the general election at the end of 2020.