EU Judges Uphold UK to Impose Life Sentences

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The convicted triple killer Arthur Hutchinson will remain in prison for the rest of his life. A sitting of EU Judges in Strasbourg rejected the claim that his sentence is inhuman and degrading.

Arthur Hutchinson murdererThis ruling means that European human rights judges confirm the right of British courts to impose “a whole life tariff”. However, this ruling only applies to the most hideous of crimes. A few infamous names spring to mind: Rose West, Michael Adebowale, Ian Brady, Mark Bridger, and Peter Sutcliffe. All of these will never be released from prison. They’ve all committed hideous crimes but how judges discriminate on what a hideous murder is bring problematic issues with it.

In the context of the EU in general and the vote on Brexit this current case seems rather poignant. Just as Theresa May’s government sets out its plans for negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU, its judges rule in favour of the Brexiteers.

The issue of whole-life sentences, according to Chris Grayling was one of the key reasons he proposed a new British bill of rights to circumvent the jurisdiction of the ECHR and give the UK courts and parliament legal primacy to decide on whole life sentences.

On a basic level many argue that life sentences handed down should mean life. Yet in many cases a life sentence for murder results in a custodial sentence of between 12 years and 40 years. While murderers are convicted by a jury it is the judge that determines the length of sentencing.

Douglas Gary Vinter served less than ten years for murder before killing again after his release; he killed his wife Anne White in 2008. In 2010 pensioner Ernest Wright was jailed again for murder, after murdering another man 38 years ago, a murder for which he served 26 years. Pensioner David Cook, strangled Leonard Hill, 64, to death 25 years after his first murder.

There are many stories available online of offenders that have been released on licence after serving 10 years or so only to kill again. It is a subject that is highly emotive and gets people debating.

In the case of Hutchinson, judges in Strasbourg dismissed his appeal. He claimed his whole-life sentence was inhuman and degrading. The judges rejected his appeal, explaining the European convention on human rights did not ban the whole life sentences on convicted murderers.

This decision will come as a most welcome one to many, especially bereaved families maintaining a just outcome for their loved ones.