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Kiwi prisoners' right to vote upheld

Newshub logoNewshub 9/11/2018 Alex Baird

Kiwi prisoners fighting for the right to vote had a big legal win, but it might not be enough to force a change.

The Supreme Court has ruled a 2010 law change that stopped prisoners voting is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

But the Government can simply ignore it and one inmate says the decision is a major check on Parliament's ability to undermine fundamental rights.

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It's a right many take for granted but for last three elections, thousands of prisoners have had it taken away.

Inmate Arthur Taylor was in a group of prisoners arguing it was against the Bill of Rights Act.

a man wearing glasses © Newshub He says today's decision was greeted by cheers in jail. 

"Some of them have made me a cake out of biscuits and things they can buy on their purchases, so that was quite nice, the thoughts there anyway," Taylor says. 

He first went to the High Court in 2015, arguing for the law change to be considered inconsistent with the Act.

The Crown has appealed that decision all the way to the highest court, and lost.

"What does that say about you? Are you a free and democratic society New Zealand, or what?"

Under the current regime, Parliament and the Government don't have to act on a declaration of inconsistency.

"That discussion is yet to be had," Justice Minister Andrew Little says. 

But he wants that to change.

"The priority is to get in place a process that requires parliament to respond to any declaration made by the courts on inconsistency with the Bill of Rights."

National's Former Attorney General Chris Finlayson says his main concern is keeping laws in line with the Bill of Rights Act.

"I'd just simply vote to make it Bill of Rights compliant, I don't think it's the end of the world if a few crims exercise the right to vote they'd probably vote New Zealand First anyway," he says. 

Parliament's Privilege Committee will now work out how and if to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling.

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