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Murderers face 'hundreds' of years in jail to avoid human rights challenges

Murderers and other serious offenders could face sentences amounting to hundreds of years in prison as the UK bids to bypass human rights laws that could overturn 'whole-life' sentences, reports The Telegraph.

The news that child killer Mark Bridger could avoid spending the rest of his life in prison came as a shock to many, when it was revealed last month that he would be challenging his whole-life tariff on human rights grounds.

However, The Telegraph has revealed that government ministers are considering an idea to switch whole-life tariffs, and instead use an American-style system in which offenders are given longer sentences, sometimes amounting to hundreds of years in prison. 

Last year the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled that a whole-life tariff was a breach of human rights because the sentence does not allow the prisoner a right of review, and therefore denies them the possibility of successful reform.

Whole-life terms are rare, but are used in exceptional circumstances such as those involving Mr Bridger.

Sentencing him to a whole-life tariff for the brutal, sexually-motivated murder of 5-year-old April Jones, Mr Justice Griffith Williams also cited the fact that Bridger had refused to help police identify the location of her body and the fact he had repeatedly lied to police during their investigation as aggravating factors supporting a whole-life term.

To avoid such a sentence being challenged on human rights grounds, the Government is considering a system in which an offender like Bridger would be given longer sentences of say, 100 years, with a chance of review after a minimum term, usually half, has been served.

In the United States it is common for criminals sentenced in states which do not operate the death penalty to receive sentences amounting to hundreds of years, effectively meaning the offender will see out their life in jail.

A Coalition source is quoted in The Telegraph saying: "[The public] don't want there to be any possibility of the most horrible of criminals walking the streets again, and this plan could be a way to make sure that doesn't happen."