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Criminal law: Murderers lose appeal against whole-life sentences

The European Court of Human Rights have ruled that handing down life-long tariffs for murder is within the law and that previous whole-life sentences are safe under human rights law.

The decision was in response to a case brought by three lifers, Jeremy Bamber, Douglas Vintner and Peter Moore who had argued that their sentences were illegal as they offered no hope of release.

Lawyers for the three convicted murderers had argued that whole-life sentences amounted to 'unfair or degrading treatment' in contravention of article three of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They argued that whole-life sentences meant that prisoners' progress was never reviewed, and that in essence they were sentenced to die in jail.

The ECHR ruled that in each man's case the whole-life sentence was handed down after recent, fair and detailed consideration in a senior UK court.

"All three applicants had committed particularly brutal and callous murders. To date, Vintner has only served three years of imprisonment, Bamber 26 years and Moore 16 years," said the ECHR ruling.

The judgment went on: "The court did not consider that these sentences were grossly disproportionate or amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment and there had therefore been no violation of article three."

The UK has 46 murderers currently serving so called whole-life tariffs; that is a life sentence without the chance of parole. That number includes moors murderer Ian Brady, the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, 'House of Horrors' murderer Rosemary West and the murderer of Milly Dowler, Levi Bellfield.

"If the state wishes to have a death penalty, then they should be honest and re-introduce hanging. Instead this political decision that I must die in jail is the death penalty using old age or infirmity as the method," said Mr Bamber, through a statement via his supporters.

Do you think life sentences with no chance of release is fair? Leave a comment below.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

How sentencing is worked out (FindLaw)

Find local criminal solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)