Murderers lose appeal against whole life tariffs

Jeremy Bamber Jeremy Bamber was among the three murderers who lost their appeal

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Britain's most dangerous criminals can be kept behind bars for the rest of their lives, judges at the European Court of Human Rights have ruled.

Killers Jeremy Bamber, Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter had asked the court to rule on whole life sentences.

The murderers said condemning them to die in prison amounts to "inhuman or degrading treatment". They argued all sentences should be regularly reviewed.

The Ministry of Justice said the government welcomed this decision.

Bamber was jailed for shooting five members of his family dead in Essex in 1986.

He has always protested his innocence, claiming his schizophrenic sister shot the victims before turning the gun on herself at their farmhouse at Tolleshunt D'Arcy.

Peter Moore, from Kinmel Bay in Conwy county, was convicted of murdering four men for his sexual gratification and Douglas Vinter, of Normanby, Teesside, killed both his wife and a work colleague.

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We argued vigorously that there are certain prisoners whose crimes are so appalling that they should never become eligible for parole”

End Quote Ministry of Justice

The trio's legal team had argued that any sentence under which the offender's rehabilitation cannot lead to a review of release breaches articles three, five and seven of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The men lost their appeal to the court that whole life tariffs condemning prisoners to die in jail amounted to "inhuman or degrading treatment".

The judges ruled that the whole life tariff is not "grossly disproportionate" and in each case London's High Court had "decided that an all-life tariff was required, relatively recently and following a fair and detailed consideration".

Lawyers representing Vinter plan to appeal against the ruling on his case.

In a statement released by his supporters, Bamber said: "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.

"It is a method whereby I'm locked in a cell until I'm dead - no matter if it should take 70 or 80 years to happen. I shall be dead the next time I leave jail."

'Quite extraordinary'

Bamber said both the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice set his minimum tariff as 25 years.

"Quite why the home secretary felt that I should die in jail when the judges felt otherwise is a mystery," he said, adding that it was "quite extraordinary" that the European Court felt it was "reasonable" for him to die in jail.

Following the ruling, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said the government "strongly welcomes this decision".

He said: "We argued vigorously that there are certain prisoners whose crimes are so appalling that they should never become eligible for parole.

"We are pleased that the European court has upheld the whole life tariff as a legitimate sentence in British courts."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Keeping these people in life sentences and depriving them of appeals is far from 'inhumane or degrading treatments', comparing to the sickening things they have done on innocent people. Despite the expenses, at least I know part of my tax is going towards justice and to help protect the victims' families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    I am totally opposed to the death penalty - it is the ultimate in inhumane penalties; it also makes the state a cold-blooded murderer and, of course, implies that the judicial system can never make a mistake which is nonsense.
    The whole life tariff should be imposed only in the most exceptional circumstances. Generally prisoners should have a chance to demonstrate change and incentive to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    I am a fairly well educated man, yet I really struggle to see how anyone can possbily argue against the fact that if you knowingly, and visciously take someone's life in any situation other than self defense then you forfeit your human rights and therefore should not be allowed to re-enter society - at any point. It is against someone's human right to be murdered. Once you murder game over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    No objection to life terms whatsoever. Prison is not just about rehabiliation. It is about punishment and protection of society as well. It can be reasonable to condemn someone for life. That said, the system in this country where an elected minister ultimately makes a decision on ability to appeal rather than a judicial body is very deeply flawed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Life should mean life. I studied the death penalty for my undergraduate dissertation and found that life imprisonment, where life means life, is a greater deterrent than capital punishment. The 1993 Duke University Study also found that life imprisonment is cheaper than executing a prisoner where there is an adequate appeals process in place. The European Court has made a good decision here.


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