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 385.

    Odd how xenophobia, an unrestrained propensity towards support of capital punishment and bad spelling appear to walk hand-in-hand (in-hand). A government should spend huge amounts of money getting newly-educated graduates to investigate :-/

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Much better than the death penalty in my opinion, first off leaves plenty of chance for appeal one of the bigger issues with capital punishment, secondly means that the offenders don't get to have a quick painless death while the relative of the victim get to suffer for the rest of their lives.

    Also society has no right to kill you, but locking you away from the rest of us is fine by me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    It is utter hypocracy for one person to take someone elses life and then talk about rights, inhumanity or degrading treatment.
    Murder takes away all of the victims rights , forever. The foreiture of rights by the perpetrator highly appropriate. The arguments against the death penalty do not apply to life long tarrifs - prisoners are kept in clean comfortable conditions with many priveleges.

  • Comment number 382.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    The appeal against deportation was allowed because there was no guarantee that the defendant would get a fair trail. The court was convinced by the evidence that witness statements were made under duress, i.e. torture.
    I prefer to live in country which stands by the rule of law and not one where justice is conducted by the whim of the authorities or the court of public opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    It is disturbing to see that the popular majority are so obviously wrong. .... but at least I have 'right' on my side.
    No, you just sound like an extremist. Most of them have right on their side as well. This is your point of view; no more right or wrong than anyone else on this blog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    370. That depends on who builds and runs the prison. A french owned company SODEXO run quite a number of those in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    If anything Bamber & co are proof of the necessity of the death penalty! The cost of housing such criminals is huge and they will never be rehabilitated, so why waste money on them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    What on Earth? EUCHR has actually ruled on something that benefits the people of Britain? Say it isn't so! Next they'll be allowing terrorists to be deported and... Oh. Right. Never mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    no i can't because to do so would be to boil down something incredibly complex and moment dependant that would do no justice to an issue as complex as this.

    hence why this "one brush suits all" mentality towards criminals is deplorable. we can't know what through their head

    and we can't say for certain that given similar situations we wouldn't have produced similar outcomes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    I have a right to life. If someone takes that right away from me, in my eyes that person has forfeited any human rights they had. Doesn't matter whether it is degrading or inhuman, we can't apply human rights to anyone who can commit crimes like these.

  • Comment number 374.

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

  • 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 372.

    The murderers say: "condemning them to die in prison amounts to "inhuman or degrading treatment"."

    Were their victims not treated in much the same way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    313.nieuw divil
    Labour cared more about the criminal than the victim! Good to see the trend is being reversed!

    This is a good decision that has been made by the European Court of Human Rights to which the Labour party signed up to, it is not a politicial broadcast in behalf of the "nieuw divil" party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    It is disturbing to see that the popular majority are so obviously wrong. My comment will get a negative score, but at least I have 'right' on my side.

    All convicts should receive the same penalty; imprisoned until proven to be safe to society or proven innocent.

    Also, the cost of imprisonment is massively misunderstood by the vast majority of people. The money does not leave the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    Considering how much it costs to house a prisoner every year, if we're that certain of his guilt, I have to agree with Bamber and say we might as well go ahead and execute him, as detain him for life. It would save the taxpayer a fortune. The death penalty isn't a deterrant, but given the prison population, it's certainly practical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    To add to the penalty, prison cells should be a 5 foot cube: not enough to stand up straight in, lie down straight in. Should be solitary lockdown for 23½ hours a day. Minimum nutrition for survival.

    No TV, no gym, no leisure at all.

    That's a deterrant, and would be much cheaper than current system.

    Prisoners shouldn't have rights. The law should only protect those who respect it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    "I am against the death penalty, but do feel that in particularly 'deserving' cases, life should mean life."

    Not a black & white view but straight into the grey. :)
    How would you devine what is deserving of DP and what is not in a legal definition (black & white - you broke the law or did not)?
    I'm not for or against, just trying to see the details. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    I firmly believe that the British justice system should be there primarily to protect the public and home secretaries should not have a say in the length of someones sentence purely for the purpose of political point scoring. However, there are clearly people who's crimes were so serious that they should never be released. A sensible ruling from the ECHJ for a change.


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