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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor