UK given prisoner votes deadline
The Government has lost its final appeal against a human rights ruling requiring Britain to give prisoners the vote.
Prime Minister David Cameron - who said the thought of granting the vote to criminals made him physically ill - now has six months to produce "legislative proposals" ending the current blanket ban on inmates voting in national and European elections.
The ultimatum was delivered by a five-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights, which last November awarded two UK prisoners 5,000 euro (£4,350) in costs and expenses for their loss of voting rights, which was ruled a breach of their human rights.
On Monday the Court dismissed a request for an appeal hearing and decreed the original verdict final.
A statement issued by the Court said: "The Court now gives the UK Government six months from 11 April 2011 to introduce legislative proposals to bring the disputed law in line with the (European Human Rights) Convention.
"The Government is further required to enact the relevant legislation within any time frame decided by the Committee of Ministers, the executive arm of the Council of Europe, which supervises the execution of the Court's judgments".
More than five years ago the same court delivered a similar verdict in a separate case brought by a prisoner, but the then Labour government left the blanket ban in place.
Last November's second ruling came in a case brought by prisoners named as Robert Greens and MT, both serving time at Peterhead prison.
By then Mr Cameron's coalition government had announced that it reluctantly accepted there was a legal obligation to offer voting rights to at least some prisoners, and scrap the total ban.