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Strasbourg rules UK whole-life sentence is not incompatible with human rights

Triple murderer challenged sentence as inhuman and degrading, Catherine Baksi reports

3 February 2015

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has upheld the right of UK courts to impose whole-life prison sentences on those who are jailed for life.

Over-ruling its decision in 2013, the Strasbourg court ruled six to one that the justice secretary has the power to release those serving whole life term in exceptional circumstances, which meant such a sentence complies with article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The court said that whole life sentences are only incompatible with the convention if there is no possibility of a review.

The case had been brought by triple murderer, Arthur Hutchinson, now aged 73, who had been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison in 1984.

Hutchinson had argued that the whole life sentence amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment as he had no hope of release.

In its written judgment, the ECtHR said: 'In the circumstances of this case where, following the Grand Chamber's judgment in which it expressed doubts about the clarity of domestic law, the national court has specifically addressed those doubts and set out an unequivocal statement of the legal position, the court must accept the national court's interpretation of domestic law.'

Read the full judgment here.

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