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 465.

    Marc 463. Crimes of Passion? Possibly more precisely Mercy Killings. Other than that all Murders could be considered Crimes of Passion/Rage/Hatred etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Anyone who is at all familiar with the Jeremy Bamber case will know that the evidence against him was overwhelming and that he is a spoilt, self-serving liar which is why family members, to this day, know that he was the murderer who killed his family and clumsily tried to frame his mentally ill sister.

    Let all killers like him rot the remainder of their lives away in prison where they belong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    This ruling is welcome. But on the other hand let's not say life should mean life in prison. For example, crimes of passion - the murderer does not necessarily deserve 80 years in prison.

    Life already means prison+parole for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    460.Total Mass Retain
    But you can change the constitution in the UK by an Act of Parliament which is in effect changing a law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Well done New Labour - for all your sins when in office, this legislation that the EUHRC has just up held, was intorduced by you & you alone.

    Where were the Tories when you had to push it through Parliament? Oh, that's right, arguing against it on human rights grounds.....Tories, soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime...??!

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    The UK does not have a constitution"

    Yes it does have a constitution. What it does not have is a constitution codified in one document. The UK constitution consists of common and statute laws, various representation of the peoples acts, Act of Settlement, Bill of Rights, Reform Acts, Act of Union, Scottish/Welsh/NI Acts, FOI, many other laws plus, of course, the HRA/ECHR.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    After a fair trial... "Guilty beyond reasonable doubt"... anyone convicted of a MURDER should get life imprisonment.

    Unfortunately, it far too often happens that rather than being helped, mentally ill patients get discharged and commit murder.
    In these situations perhaps the staff responsible should also face a manslaughter charge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    The mockery that is Parole/Released on Licence needs to be junked.

    If you get 1,2,5,10,20,30 years or life as a sentance, that is what you server. Period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    European Court of Human Rights makes first sensible decision!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.


    I'm aware of the law, but all of this is fundamentally legal jargon. Whether answerable to the UK, the EU, or the UN, it's still only legislation (constitutional or not). Legislation can be overturned, and constitutions rewritten - it happens more than you'd think - ask Silvio Berlusconi ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    --"No one, no matter what they may have done, should be told they will have to die in prison"--

    This is the typical attitude of the people who have brought our justice system to its knees. If somebody takes the life of another, then they clearly don't value life; hence, they should have no objection to spending their life behind bars.

    Please, keep your HR extremism to yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    "Also, to those who say you forfeit your human rights when you murder, does that make it okay to murder a murderer, since they are only sub-human at best, animal at worst."

    My animal (cat) has never tried to kill me! lol

    You are allowed to put a pet "down", but I think we risk expanding into animal rights to if we go down this route of discussion :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    commit a crime where you deny some one any of their rights, you should automaticaly give up yr own except basic shelter and food. Until you have paid yr debt to society.
    In the case of serious crime, rape/muder etc life should mean life or bring back the death penalty.
    Time people became more aware of their responsibilities and stopped going on about their rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    i acknowledge the stupidity factor

    but the rest is just jingoist trite you see everywhere in reponse to finding you have a closed mind.

    serious problems including: moaning entitled old people crying like children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    445. and which constitution would that be - and why does it need to add more rights to the already declared UN Human Rights declaration?

    Also, can constitutions not be amended?

    If so, who by? Politicians who know better than us? Or the people, the common man?

    Such remote, technical and abstract legislations eventually get torn down in revolt by the masses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    445. Total Mass Retain

    "Human Rights are however constitutional rules that legislatures cannot revoke as they must operate according to the constitution"

    The UK does not have a constitution. It has the Human Rights Act, that can be repealed, and the ECHR which would immediately lose legislative force if the UK leaves the EU.

  • 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 448.

    I am pleased to see that Bamber has lost another appeal as the evidence, that convicted him, proved conclusively beyond any doubt, that he is the murderer of his family. He would do well to stop trying to wriggle out of his responsility for his dreadful crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    "Green Future
    First we need to leave EU."

    We would still be bound by the ECHR if we left the EU (what is it about anything beginning with "E" that confuses you all?). We would need to abrogate the ECHR (and hence any formal constitutional protections of liberty, press freedoms etc we have) to reimpose the death penalty.

  • Comment number 446.

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


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