Whole-life jail terms loom for Lee Rigby killers Adebolajo and Adebowale, who will be sentenced next week

Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney had put sentencing on hold until today’s Court of Appeal decision regarding whole-life terms

Deputy Political Editor

The two men convicted of murdering Lee Rigby will be sentenced next week, after a key ruling was handed down today regarding the use of whole-life jail terms.

Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers could be locked up until they die after the principle of whole-life jail sentences for murderers was backed by senior judges.

The ruling at the Court of Appeal follows a clash between the Government and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over whether “life should mean life” for the most serious offences.

It clears the way for the sentencing of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who were convicted of the off-duty soldier’s murder. The judge in their trial had put it on hold two months ago pending the ruling on whole-life sentences.

A panel of five judges at the Court of Appeal backed the Government’s argument that whole-life tariffs should apply in the “most heinous cases”.

Seven months ago the ECHR said all convictions should include the possibility of release regardless of the offences that had been committed and suggested all cases be reviewed after 25 years.

However, the British judges yesterday said domestic law was compatible with the Strasbourg-based court as prisoners with life sentences could be freed in exceptional circumstances.

They also increased the 40-year minimum prison term being served by killer Ian McLoughlin, who murdered a man while on day release, to life behind bars without prospect of release.

And they dismissed an appeal by Lee Newell that his whole-life tariff had been “manifestly excessive”. Newell received the maximum sentence after murdering a child killer while in prison for another murder.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said: “Our courts should be able to send the most brutal murderers to jail for the rest of their lives.

“I think people in Britain will be glad that our courts have disagreed with the European Court of Human Rights and upheld the law the UK Parliament has passed.”

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, who headed the panel, said the court had held that the ability of judges to pass whole-life orders was “entirely compatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.

52 English prisoners are currently serving whole-life sentences. The latest to receive the terms are the serial killer Dale Cregan, jailed last year for the murders of four people including policewomen Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester, and Mark Bridger who killed five-year-old April Jones, from Machynlleth, Powys, in 2012.

The issue arose in October when Mr Justice Sweeney jailed McLoughlin for 40 years, telling the Old Bailey he did not have the power to pass a whole life order because he had to take account of a previous ECHR ruling.

But the Court of Appeal said the law allowed him to impose a “life means life” sentence.

The McLoughlin sentence was referred to the court for review by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.

The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who introduced whole-tariffs said common sense had prevailed and proved judges were “not prepared to simply bow down to the rulings of the Strasbourg court but to seek rational interpretation of them”.

But Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the campaign group Liberty, said: “The judgment shows how Government has been misleading the public about human rights.

“They said the European court was dominating British ones - not true. And they said judges were dominating policy - another big lie.”

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week