Killers lose European Court whole life appeal

 

Britain's most dangerous and notorious criminals can be kept behind bars for the rest of their lives, European judges ruled today.

Killer Jeremy Bamber and two other convicted murderers lost their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that whole-life tariffs condemning prisoners to die in jail amounted to "inhuman or degrading treatment".

The whole-life tariff is 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.

Bamber attacked the court's decision.

In a statement released by his supporters, he said: "If the state wishes to have a death penalty, then they should be honest and re-introduce hanging.

"Instead, this political decision that I must die in jail is the death penalty using old age or infirmity as the method.

"It is a method whereby I'm locked in a cell until I'm dead - no matter if it should take 70 or 80 years to happen. I shall be dead the next time I leave jail.

"This despite that the trial judge said 25 years was punishment enough for a crime I did not commit."

He went on: "Both the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice set my minimum tariff as 25 years.

"Quite why the Home Secretary felt that I should die in jail when the judges felt otherwise is a mystery.

"To then be told by the European Court that it was reasonable and fair for the Home Secretary to re-sentence me to die in jail is quite extraordinary."

But he said the ruling "does not really surprise me".

"It is no different to the injustice of my conviction," he said.

"The evidence upon which the Crown have built their case is no longer credible, yet my imprisonment must continue until I'm dead, as evidence of my innocence cannot be disclosed because the Criminal Cases Review Commission have refused to request it from Essex Police.

"I will continue to campaign to prove my innocence and I am hoping that this will happen before my death sentence is carried out."

Bamber's legal team, which is also representing convicted killers Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter, 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.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The Government strongly welcomes this decision.

"We argued vigorously that there are certain prisoners whose crimes are so appalling that they should never become eligible for parole.

"We are pleased that the European court has upheld the whole life tariff as a legitimate sentence in British courts."

PA

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