A decision labelling a ban on prisoners voting a human rights breach has been upheld in the Court of Appeal.

Parliament passed a law to prevent all prisoners from voting in 2010. Previously, only those jailed for more than three years were unable to vote.

Long-time prisoner Arthur Taylor and four others successfully sought a High Court "Declaration of Inconsistency" in 2015, saying extending the ban to all prisoners infringed the right to vote in the Bill of Rights Act.

The Crown then asked the Court of Appeal to overturn that declaration, but in a judgment released today, the appeal was dismissed.


The declaration alone does not mean Parliament must repeal the ban - the High Court previously noted that even where it finds Parliament has placed unjustified limits on rights, it still has to apply that law.

In that decision, Justice Paul Heath said the purpose of the declaration was to send a formal message that the law was "inconsistent with a fundamental right".

Taylor, a self-described "prison lawyer" and criminal, took the case along with four women prisoners from Christchurch Women's Prison.

Taylor also successfully sought rulings in 2012 that a smoking ban on prisons was unlawful. He lost a separate case about the prison voting law last year.

The 2015 ruling was the first time the court has issued a declaration of inconsistency in relation to the Bill of Rights Act.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Amy Adams said she was unable to comment while the case was before the courts.