Michael Adebolajo launches appeal against whole-life sentence for murder of Lee Rigby

Judge ruled at the time that Adebolajo's was a "rare case" which warranted a whole-life term

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The Independent Online

Michael Adebolajo, one of the men convicted of the brutal murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich last May, has launched an appeal against his whole-life sentence.

Adebolajo was sentenced at the Old Bailey in February alongside Michael Adebowale, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 45 years.

The judge ruled at the time that Adebolajo's was a "rare case" which warranted a whole-life term.

The 29-year-old Muslim convert, together with Michael Adebowale, 22, butchered the 25-year-old father of one in broad daylight near Woolwich Barracks in south east London on May 22 last year.

They first drove a car into him before hacking the soldier to death with knives in a crime that shocked the nation.

The two men said they chose to attack Rigby after concluding he was a soldier partly because he was wearing a Help for Heroes hooded top.

Heartbroken relatives of Fusilier Rigby said "justice has been served" after Adebolajo was given the whole-life term, which condemns him to die behind bars.

When announcing the sentences, Mr Justice Sweeney told Adebolajo and Adebowale: "You each converted to Islam some years ago. Thereafter you were radicalised and each became an extremist, espousing a cause and views which, as has been said elsewhere, are a betrayal of Islam and of the peaceful Muslim communities who give so much to our country."

He went on: "You decided between you, and in order to advance your extremist cause, to murder a soldier in public in broad daylight and to do so in a way that would generate maximum media coverage, including getting yourselves killed by armed officers who would be bound to attend the scene in the aftermath of the murder - thereby expecting that you would become martyrs and each gain a place in paradise."

Explaining his decision to give Adebolajo a whole-life term, the judge said the 29-year-old, who has two children and four stepchildren, was the leader of the murderous plot and had "no real prospect of rehabilitation".

However, 22-year-old Adebowale's younger age, mental health problems and "lesser role" meant that he escaped spending the rest of his natural life behind bars.

Whole-life terms came under the spotlight recently when leading judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that murderers who commit the most "heinous" of crimes can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

A specially-constituted court declared that sentencing judges can continue to impose "whole-life" tariffs in such cases.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas said the court had held that the statutory scheme enacted by Parliament which enabled judges to pass whole-life orders was "entirely compatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.