April Jones murder trial: Mark Bridger joins 'whole life' list

 

Mark Bridger joins a small group of prisoners whose crimes are deemed so appalling they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The former slaughterhouse worker was told by Mr Justice Griffith Williams: "There is no doubt in my mind that you are a paedophile, who has for some time harboured sexual and morbid fantasies about young girls."

The judge said he had no doubt there could be only one sentence - a whole life term - for Bridger's crime.

According to Ministry of Justice figures, today's sentencing takes the number of prisoners for whom life means life to 48.

Many of those on the whole life tariff list committed crimes so shocking that their names remain etched on the public memory decades later.

Notorious cases include Moors Murderer Ian Brady, who tortured and murdered children along with accomplice Myra Hindley, as well as murderer and robber Donald Neilson, "The Black Panther", who shot and killed three sub-postmasters.

In 2008 club bouncer Levi Bellfield was told he would die in prison for murdering two young women and trying to murder a third.

In the same month, Steve Wright was also given a "whole life" term for the murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich, as he was told his "targeted campaign of murder" warranted the harshest punishment available to the judge.

The only woman on the list is Rose West, who was convicted in 1995. A killing spree with husband Fred saw 10 young women murdered - eight within a two-year period.

Soham murderer Ian Huntley is not on the whole life tariff list. He is serving a 40-year minimum term.

Huntley was convicted of murdering 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2003.

Earlier this month Stuart Hazell, who finally admitted killing schoolgirl Tia Sharp and hiding her body in the loft of the home he shared with her grandmother, was also given a 38-year minimum term, rather than a whole life tariff.

The issue of whether "life means life" remains a contentious one.

Killer Jeremy Bamber, convicted of killing his adoptive parents, sister and her two young children in 1985, is battling, along with two other murderers, against their "whole-life" jail terms, appealing to judges in Europe to rule that it breaches their human rights.

In 2011 the European Court of Human Rights backed the UK, ruling it was not "grossly disproportionate" for the country's notorious criminals to be imprisoned indefinitely.

In a separate case in November, the London Court of Appeal upheld the principle that whole life sentences do not violate human rights as long as jail without possibility of release is "reserved for the few exceptionally serious offences".

Lawyers for Bamber; Douglas Vinter, convicted of stabbing his wife in February 2008, having already served nine years for stabbing to death a work colleague in 1996; and Peter Moore, convicted of killing four gay men in 1995, have appealed to the 17-judge Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, calling for a definitive ruling that whole life jail amounts to "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" banned by the European Human Rights Convention.

A decision has not yet been announced.