Indefinite prison terms 'breach human rights'

Jailing dangerous prisoners indefinitely without giving them access to rehabilitation courses breaches their human rights, European judges ruled yesterday.

The European Court of Human Rights said indeterminate sentences for the protection of the public (IPPs) were "draconian". The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, said the Government intended to appeal. "It is not an area where I welcome the court seeking to make rulings," he told the Commons.

While indeterminate sentences were scrapped by the former justice secretary Ken Clarke – with the aim of replacing them with a new system of determinate sentences – the ruling raises the possibility the Government could have to pay compensation to thousands of prisoners held beyond their tariffs.

Yesterday's case concerned three Britons – Brett James, Nicholas Wells and Jeffrey Lee – convicted respectively of unlawful wounding with intent, attempted robbery and drunkenly causing criminal damage to a flat with children present – who were given automatic IPP sentences in 2005.