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European Court of Human Rights to hear Jeremy Bamber appeal case


Killer Jeremy Bamber and two other murderers will have their appeal over keeping them behind bars for the rest of their lives heard by the Grand Chamber of Europe's human rights court.

The hearing will test whether the UK's law allowing the most dangerous offenders to be sentenced to whole life tariffs, meaning they will never be released, amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear the case in Strasbourg on November 28, a court spokesman said.

It comes after Europe's human rights judges ruled in January that Britain's most dangerous and notorious criminals could be kept behind bars for the rest of their lives.

Condemning people to die in jail was not "grossly disproportionate" and in each case London's High Court had "decided that an all-life tariff was required, relatively recently and following a fair and detailed consideration", the judges ruled.

That ruling will now be tested by the court's Grand Chamber after a panel of five judges granted the appeal by killer Douglas Vinter, who stabbed his wife in February 2008.

Vinter's appeal means the cases of Bamber, who killed his parents, sister and her two young children in August 1985, and Peter Moore, who killed four gay men for his sexual gratification in 1995, will also be considered by the Grand Chamber judges.

Bamber's solicitor, Simon McKay, said: "He's obviously delighted with the decision.

"It demonstrates that his case remains arguable and he looks forward to presenting his position at the Grand Chamber in due course."

Mr McKay went on: "It is part of his long battle to challenge the home secretary of the day going beyond what the trial judge said would be the appropriate sentence he should receive.

"He's encouraged by it, but he's realistic and acknowledges that it's just another stepping point.

"The final analysis will depend on what the Grand Chamber says in the end."

The European Court of Human Rights held by four votes to three on January 17 that there had been no violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enshrined in UK law under the Human Rights Act and prohibits "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

Bamber's legal team originally submitted the application to the ECHR in December 2009.

But their claims were strongly opposed by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who has said the Government has been "fighting the case vigorously and defending the principle of the whole-life tariff".

Under current law, whole-life tariff prisoners will almost certainly never be released from prison as their offences are deemed to be so serious.

They can be freed only by the Justice Secretary, who can give discretion on compassionate grounds when the prisoner is terminally ill or seriously incapacitated.

Bamber has been behind bars for more than 25 years for shooting his wealthy adopted parents June and Neville, his sister Sheila Caffell and her six-year-old twin sons Daniel and Nicholas at their farmhouse in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex.

The 51-year-old was given a whole-life tariff after being convicted of the murders in October 1986.

But he has always protested his innocence and claims his schizophrenic sister Ms Caffell shot her family before turning the gun on herself in a remote Essex farmhouse.

In 2009, Bamber lost a Court of Appeal challenge against the order that he must die behind bars. He has twice lost appeals against conviction.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission reached a provisional decision not to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal last February despite claims by his legal team that they had new evidence that could overturn his conviction.

Vinter was released from prison after serving nine years for the 1995 murder of work colleague Carl Edon, 22. Three years later he stabbed wife Anne White four times and strangled her, before being given a whole-life order.

Moore was convicted of four counts of murder in 1996 after killing four gay men for his sexual gratification.