A triple murderer has become the first UK citizen to mount a legal challenge against his ‘life means life’ tariff after a controversial ruling from European judges that it breaches human rights.
Arthur Hutchinson is serving a “whole life” sentence for stabbing a wealthy couple to death after breaking into their home on the night of their daughter’s wedding, before killing one of their sons and repeatedly raping another wedding guest.
He has launched an appeal over his sentence to the European Court of Human Rights after the Strasbourg court ruled last month that such sentences are “inhuman and degrading”.
The case was able to be brought after three killers, including Jeremy Bamber who shot dead five members of his family appealed against the tariffs.
Hustchinson, 73, is one of 49 prisoners in British prisons serving whole life tariffs.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said, “I have repeatedly made clear how profoundly I disagree with the recent ruling by the European Court.
”Our judges should be able to tell those who commit the most heinous crimes imaginable that they may never be released.
“To be told this breaches human rights is absurd - and an insult to those who wrote the original Human Rights Convention. What about the rights of the victims and their families?
”I continue to strongly believe that whole life tariffs are appropriate for the worst murder cases. This is why I want wholesale reforms to our human rights laws.“
Strasbourg judges proposed that prisoners serving life with no possibility of parole should have their cases reviewed after 25 year, after which time they could be freed.
The government has been asked give a full response to Hutchinson’s claim, which could lead to a full trial next year, the Daily Telegraph reports.
If judges rule in his favour, Hutchinson, originally from Hartlepool, could walk free from prison.
Five years ago, he had a domestic appeal against whole life tariffs rejected by the Court of Appeal. Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that there was “no reason at all” to depart from the whole life tariff.
He said, “These were exceptionally serious murders, and it is right that the applicant should remain in prison for the rest of his life by way of punishment.”
The judge at Hutchinson’s original 1984 trial at Sheffield Crown Court ruled that he should serve 18 years but then home secretary Leon Brittan later ruled he should face the whole life tariff.