Hair fetishist murderer Danilo Restivo and 'Bermondsey Beast' rapist Michael Roberts should not have been handed full life sentences, Court of Appeal rules

 

A panel of judges has upheld the principle of whole life sentences for the most dangerous offenders but ruled that the “life means life” terms imposed on a murderer and two rapists were wrong.

In a ruling likely to be interpreted as a signal to judges in Europe that the courts in England and Wales are satisfied with the validity of whole life sentences, the Court of Appeal said it was right that judges could send offenders to jail without the prospect of release in a “few exceptionally serious cases”.

But the court, which had been hearing appeals against sentence from four men sentenced to whole life terms, decided that three of the prisoners should instead be given finite jail terms. The three included Daniel Restivo, an Italian-born hair fetishist who murdered and mutilated a mother of two.

The judges underlined that the crimes of Restivo, 40, and two rapists - Michael Roberts and David Martin Simmons - were nonetheless so serious and each man so dangerous that it was extremely unlikely that any of them would be ever released once they become eligible for parole.

The Court of Appeal judgment comes a week before an appeal by Jeremy Bamber, who has always denied the murder of five members of his family in a Essex farmhouse, and two other murderers to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to have their whole life tariffs overturned.

The hearing before the highest level of the Strasbourg Court will test whether it is right for judges in England and Wales to have the power, granted by Parliament, to impose jail terms without the possibility of release. A lower chamber of the European Court has already upheld the principle.

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, and four other judges said Parliament had made its intentions clear and that the whole life order needed to be imposed only when “just punishment and retribution” required it.

He added: “If that conclusion is justified, the whole-life order is appropriate, but only then. It is not a mandatory or automatic or minimum sentence.”

Sentences of “life means life” currently apply to just 46 prisoners, meaning that other offenders given life sentences can be released on licence if they can prove that they are no longer a risk to society.

In their ruling, the Court of the Appeal judges said that the whole life sentence given to one killer, David Oakes, 51, who “sadistically tortured” and shot dead his former partner and then murdered their daughter in Essex, was justified.

The court also upheld the 30-year minimum term imposed on Kiaran Stapleton, 21, the self-described “Psycho” who walked up behind Indian student Anuj Bidve and shot him at point-blank range on the street in Salford, Greater Manchester.

But the judges found the whole life sentences had been incorrectly imposed on the remaining men and instead sentenced Restivo, who was found guilty of the “depraved” and “callous” murder of his neighbour, Heather Barnett in Bournemouth in 2002, to a 40-year minimum term.

Roberts, 46, a rapist whose attacks on women in south east London led to him being described as the Bermondsey Beast, was sentenced to a 25-year term and Simmons, 40, who has been held at Broadmoor Hospital, had his whole life sentence replaced by a ten-year minimum.

Lord Judge said: “We should perhaps emphasise at the outset that each of these appellants is dangerous, and on the available evidence, likely to remain dangerous for the indefinite future. At present it is difficult to see how it will ever become safe for any of them to be released from custody.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests