Judges in new Hutchinson ruling

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Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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European judges will today issue a fresh ruling on whether whole-life prison sentences imposed in Britain are compatible with human rights laws.

The judgment in the case of triple killer Arthur Hutchinson is the latest development in the protracted legal wrangle over “life means life” terms.

Hutchinson was jailed in 1984 for stabbing wealthy couple Basil and Avril Laitner to death after breaking into their Sheffield home on the night of their daughter’s wedding, then killing one of their sons.

He was the first Briton to challenge the sentence after a controversial ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in July 2013 that whole life tariffs breach human rights.

The Strasbourg-based court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which relates to inhuman and degrading treatment – on the basis that whole-life orders were not “reducible”.

The court did not say whole-life sentences were incompatible with the convention, but said there had to be the possibility of a review at some stage and that current laws allowing for release in exceptional circumstances were unclear.

Hutchinson alleges under Article 3 that his sentence amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment as he has no hope of release.

Court of Appeal judges ruled last year that the Grand Chamber was wrong when it said the law of England and Wales did not clearly provide for “reducibility”, saying the domestic law “is clear as to ‘possible exceptional release of whole-life prisoners'”.

They underlined the power given to the secretary of state to release a prisoner on licence if he is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist which justify the prisoner’s release on compassionate grounds.

In today’s judgment the European court will state whether it considers the legal situation in the UK to be in line with human rights laws.

The list of whole-lifers includes some of the most notorious prisoners in Britain, including o ne-eyed police killer Dale Cregan, who lured Pcs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone to their deaths in a gun and grenade attack; Mark Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones; and Moors murderer Ian Brady.

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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