Europe court rules Britain life terms ‘inhuman, degrading’
ECHR judges are seen in this photo obtained from the court’s website. ECHR overrules UK on whole-life jail terms.The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that whole-life prison terms imposed in Britain amounted to “inhuman and degrading” treatment, in a case brought by three of the country’s most notorious murderers.
The rights court said the sentences against Jeremy Bamber, jailed for murdering five members of his family in 1985, serial killer Peter Moore and multiple-murderer Douglas Vinter should include the possibility of review.
“The case concerned three applicants’ complaints that their imprisonment for life amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment as they had no hope of release. The Court found in particular that, for a life sentence to remain compatible with Article 3 [prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment], there had to be both a possibility of release and a possibility of review,” the statement from the court said.
It noted that there was clear support in European and international law and practice for those principles, with the large majority of Convention Contracting States not actually imposing life sentences at all or, if they did, providing for a review of life sentences after a set period (usually 25 years’ imprisonment).
However the Court did not intend to give the applicants any prospect of imminent release, according to the statement. “Whether or not they should be released would depend, for example, on whether there were still legitimate penological grounds for their continued detention and whether they should continue to be detained on grounds of dangerousness. These questions were not in issue in this case and were not the subject of argument before the Court,” it said.