Birmingham Hall Green: Labour withdraw ‘paedophile’ leaflet

By Sasjkia Otto

Labour has retracted a campaigning leaflet following a row over its contents suggesting the Liberal Democrats would give convicted murders and paedophiles the vote.

Roger Godsiff, Labour’s Birmingham Hall Green candidate, distributed a leaflet that asked: “Do you want convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles to be given the vote? The Lib Dems do”.

It contained pictures of convicted criminals. These include nursery worker Vanessa George, who was jailed last year for child abuse, and Steven Wright, who killed five women in Ipswich in 2006.

The Liberal Democrats said they were “unhappy” with the claims. They said giving convicted prisoners the vote would be a “legal minefield”.

However, they believed judges should be given discretion upon sentencing whether to strip people of the vote. This should depend on the length of sentence and nature of the crime, they said.

Once a new system was in place, they said existing criminals should be given the right to launch an appeal to try and secure the vote. However, they insisted this would exclude those guilty of the most serious crimes.

Mr Godsiff defended the campaign tactic: “The leaflet has been distributed in certain areas but it does not contain anything that is factually incorrect,” he told the BBC. “I have to put out some negative campaigning when my opponents do not tell the electorate what their position is.”

Labour denied the leaflet was approved on a national level. Labour’s general secretary, Ray Collins said: “This was a locally produced leaflet. As soon as it came to my attention I immediately ensured that no more of these would be distributed.”

A 2005 European Court of Rights ruling found the UK’s ban on extending the vote to convicted prisoners was unlawful. Ministers have consulted on the issue, but been accused of avoiding making a decision.