some of Britain’s most notorious killers have been told that life in prison must mean life.
Murderers who commit the most “heinous” of crimes can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives, Court of Appeal judges have ruled.
The panel have continued to allow sentencing judges to impose “whole life” tariffs and, yesterday, they decided to increase the “unduly lenient” 40-year minimum being served by killer Ian McLoughlin, who murdered a man while on day release, to a whole-life term.
The panel also dismissed a challenge by Lee Newell, who murdered a child killer while in prison, against an order imposed in his case that he can never be released.
Guidance from the appeal judges in London comes in the wake of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights last year in an appeal by three murderers.
Giving the panel’s ruling, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas said the court had held that the statutory scheme enacted by Parliament which enabled judges to pass whole-life orders was “entirely compatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.
He said: “Judges should therefore continue as they have done to impose whole-life orders in those rare and exceptional cases which fall within the statutory scheme.
“Under the statutory scheme as enacted by Parliament, the Secretary of State has power to release a prisoner on licence if he is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist which justify the prisoner’s release on compassionate grounds.”
Sentencing in a number of high-profile criminal cases have been put on hold – including the terms handed out to soldier Lee Rigby’s murderers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale – pending the Court of Appeal’s findings.
After the ruling, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who referred the McLoughlin sentence to the court for review, praised the decision.
He said: “I am pleased that the Court of Appeal has confirmed that those who commit the most heinous crimes can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives
“As someone who has killed three times, Ian McLoughlin committed just such a crime, and following today’s judgment he has received the sentence that crime required.
“I asked the Court of Appeal to look again at McLoughlin’s original sentence because I did not think that the European Court of Human Rights had said anything which prevented our courts from handing down whole life terms in the most serious cases.
“The Court of Appeal has agreed with me and this judgment gives the clarity our judges need when they are considering sentencing cases like this in the future.”
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling added: “This is a timely and welcome decision.
“Our courts should be able to send the most brutal murderers to jail for the rest of their lives.
“I think people in Britain will be glad that our courts have disagreed with the European Court of Human Rights, and upheld the law that the UK Parliament has passed.”
The ruling by Lord Thomas, Sir Brian Leveson, Lady Justice Hallett, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Burnett follows a successful appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by murderers Jeremy Bamber, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore.
So far, 53 offenders have been sentenced to whole-life order.
Those currently serving such terms in England and Wales include Moors Murderer Ian Brady, who tortured and murdered children along with accomplice Myra Hindley, and serial killer Rosemary West
Brady has insisted he still wants to die in the wake of losing his bid to be transferred from hospital to prison. He also denied recent reports that he had dementia or had shown any signs of the illness.
Brady, who murdered five children in the 1960s with his lover Myra Hindley, was jailed for life in 1966.
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