UK & World News

  • 18 February 2014, 9:54

Whole-Life Sentences: Judges To Announce Ruling

Leading judges will today decide whether criminals can be jailed for their entire lives.

Five Court of Appeal judges will rule on whole-life sentences, which are sometimes given to the most serious murderers and terrorists.

The so-called 'life-means-life' sentences have been called into question after European judges decided last year that whole-life tariffs amounted to "inhuman and degrading treatment".

Sentencing in some of the most high profile murder cases has been put on hold ahead of the judges' decision.

Those affected include Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the killers of soldier Lee Rigby,who will be sentenced after the Court of Appeal decision.

Those currently serving whole-life terms in England and Wales include Moors Murderer Ian Brady, who tortured and murdered children with accomplice Myra Hindley, and serial killer Rosemary West.

The Government has said that such sentences are "wholly justified in the most heinous cases".

But such terms were deemed a breach of human rights following a successful appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by murderers Jeremy Bamber, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore.

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court did not say that whole-life tariffs were wrong in principle.

Instead, they said it was unacceptable that any convict should spend their time in jail without the prospect of parole.

The European court said that a review of the whole-lifer's sentence should occur no later than 25 years into their term.

The ruling, by 17 judges from across Europe, sparked outrage among critics of the court - despite reassurances that the decision did not amount to grounds for imminent release.

Those protesting said it was not right that a European court should have a say in how long British criminals should spend in British prisons.

As well as the spotlight being on whole-life orders generally, the Court of Appeal judges are making a decision about the sentencing of Lee Newell, who murdered child killer Subhan Anwar in prison.

Newell, now 45, is challenging a whole-life sentence imposed last September at Warwick Crown Court.

He was convicted alongside Gary Smith for the February 2013 murder of convicted child killer Anwar in his cell at Long Lartin Prison, Worcestershire. Newell was already serving a life sentence for a previous murder committed in 1988.

The judges have also been asked to rule on whether Ian McLoughlin, who was sentenced to 40 years for murder, can be forced to die in jail.

Triple killer McLoughlin, 55, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last October for stabbing a man on his first day-release from prison after 21 years in custody.

When sentencing McLoughlin, the trial judge imposed a 40-year tariff, saying he could not pass a whole-life term because of the European court ruling.

McLoughlin - who had killed twice before - stabbed Graham Buck, 66, as he came to the aid of a neighbour in Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, last July.

Today's ruling will be given by Lord Thomas, Sir Brian Leveson, Lady Justice Hallett, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Burnett. 

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