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.

Start Quote

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 305.

    I am told there are currently over 8,000 murderers in British prisons, lounging around at tax-payers expense.
    The sooner we bring back the death penalty the better.

  • Comment number 304.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.


    And if the state breaches someone's human rights, thereby breaking the 'contract', shouldn't the police and judiciary involved in thw case be incarcerated for years?

    It'll stop them doing it again. That's what prisons are meant to be for. But then again, it's been shown that prison DOESN'T stop people reoffending. What to do, what to do ...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Wish this court would hear more cases from 'regular' citizens of Europe on the right to be safe from all convicted murderers"

    So long as each state has a legal code prohibiting unlawful killings and ensures such crimes are investigated properly then regular citizens have no case to bring to the court.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    239. The law and its rule is directed by the people in a democracy.

    The law must reflect the will of the people.

    Or it the law Autocrat in your world, inaccessible and unchanging?

    If the people wish the death penalty by law, so should the law be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    They killed and took away the lives of others, therefore their freedom and lives get taken away too. Simple and fair. How can you say someone who has murdered another does not deserve to die in prison?

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    I cannot believe these people have the audacity to moan about their human rights, it proves what monsters they truly are. The utter disregard they have for anyone but themselves.

    Fine, let them have their freedom (on benefits no doubt, why not!) if they figure a way to reverse their actions or perhaps go back in time and choose the path of a balanced human being!

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    If you take another persons life you forfeit any rights you may have had. the victims and the family and friends of the victims carry a life sentence so why shouldn't the person responsible? Corporal punishment should be brought back for certain crimes and it would act as a suitable deterrent to others and reduce the amount of crime we have on our streets over time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    If there is truly a LIFE sentence, then presumably these prisoners do not have the rehabilitation PERKS of prison life. As they won't be coming out there is no way you can argue that they can have access to the niceties of what a prison education system has to offer.
    Let's review that one please... they have made families suffer - lets make them suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    I'm in favour of the death penalty.

    Does it act as a deterant? No, most "killers" don't care about the consequences. However, the people that commit the crimes do not deserve to live whilst simultaneously wasting all our taxes. Give them 10 years in jail to allow time to prove innocense, then apply the death penalty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Let them appeal. Let them win the appeal, and then bring back the death penalty and fry them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    The recent "machine gun" murder over a parking space netted the killer 26 years. so at age 46 the killer will be roaming our streets again hopefully without machine gun or the need to park his van. That sentence was a high tarrif in our daft system. It would be much better for society if cold blooded killers were removed for the duration of their lives. Currently its a lottery!

  • 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 292.

    These murdereres have shown no respect for other lives that they have cut short, often in disgusting/brutal ways that must have terrified the victims. Why should we respect theirs? I don't believe in an eye for an eye but "father forgive them for they know not what they do" isn't applicable. They know what they did was wrong but want sympathy now...sorry but none from me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Is the point being made that the whole life sentence appears to be a political decision rather than a judicial one? Should the decision for a whole life sentence not be in the hands of the judiciary rather than a politician that has to consider popularity of decisions rather than seriousness of crimes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    "141 - you are comparing apples with pears surely."

    Not specifically, both health & prison budgets come from the treasury so when £ are limited which budget do they go into? Therefore I would suggest that the dilema in 141 is appropriate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    How would you feel if a loved one was incorrectly found guilty and given the death penalty?

    About the same as if they were murdered by somebody who had been let off on a technicality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    You can't lock them up in our prisons, as they aren't really prisons, they are butlins for bad people. If you are unwilling to execute them , then how anchoring an unused fuel tanker in the middle of the pacific and just dumping murderers, paedos,and rapists there.
    When it get's too full, we can send the RN to scuttle it

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    21 Minutes ago
    @133 - Who exactly do you mean by 'them'...?

    Well let me think - "them" - non indigenous - does that help? Read this quick it may be removed by the BBC thought police!

  • 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.


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