‘Whole life’ terms no breach of human rights, top judges rule

Orders preventing prisoners from ever being released from jail do not breach their human rights, leading judges ruled yesterday as they overturned whole-life orders against a London rapist who terrorised women in the capital for more than a decade and a man who murdered and mutilated a mother of two.

The Court of Appeal announced yesterday they were reducing the whole-life orders imposed on “Bermondsey Beast” rapist Michael Roberts to a minimum term of 25 years, and hair festishist Danilo Restivo, who targeted a neighbour in Bournemouth and left her body for her young children to find, who will have to serve a minimum term of 40 years instead.

They also allowed an appeal by rapist David Martin Simmons, 40, against a whole-life order, replacing it with a ten-year minimum.

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But the court refused to quash an order in the case of killer David Oakes, who “sadistically tortured” his former partner before shooting her and their two-year-old daughter.

The panel, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, also upheld the 30-year minimum term imposed on Kiaran Stapleton, who was jailed for life after shooting Indian student Anuj Bidve, 23, at point- blank range in Salford after crossing the road to confront him and his friends as they passed.

Although the judges overturned the whole-life orders in the cases of Restivo and Roberts, they announced the imposition of such orders was not incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.

The appellants are all still subject to life sentences. Those with a minimum term can apply for parole once that has expired, but they would not be released until they are deemed to no longer pose a threat to the public.

Lord Judge said he thought it was “highly unlikely” that any of the five would be released.

Giving the ruling, he said the whole-life order “is reserved for the few exceptionally serious offences in which, after reflecting on all the features of aggravation and mitigation, the judge is satisfied that the element of just punishment and retribution requires the imposition of a whole-life order”.

He added: “If that conclusion is justified, the whole-life order is appropriate, but only then. It is not a mandatory or automatic or minimum sentence.”

Yesterday’s ruling came a week before an appeal by killer Jeremy Bamber and two other murderers, who will be seeking to overturn their whole-life terms at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.