Two South Yorkshire killers – deemed so dangerous they were locked up for the rest of their lives – could be freed after a European ruling.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights yesterday ruled that whole-life tariffs, without the option of a review, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment and were a breach of human rights.
PM David Cameron is said to be ‘very, very disappointed’ at the ruling.
Two South Yorkshire murderers are currently serving whole-life tariffs – Anthony Arkwright, jailed for the murder of his grandfather and two neighbours in Wath and Mexborough in 1988, and Arthur Hutchinson, who killed three members of the same family and raped another in 1983 after breaking into a house in Dore.
Sheffield MP David Blunkett, who was Home Secretary when whole-life tariffs were introduced 10 years ago, said: “In 2003, we changed the law, so life really meant life when sentencing those who had committed the most heinous crimes.
The Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough said: “I pushed this through Parliament in response to the overwhelming demand of the British people for clear, transparent sentencing and for the certainty that what starts out as a clear and unambiguous punishment will in the end be carried out.
“Whatever the technical justification the Strasbourg court may have, it is the right of the British Parliament to determine the sentence of those who have committed such crimes, and for democracy, which chose such a sentence many years ago as an alternative to capital punishment, to have the will of the people implemented.
“To do otherwise can only lead to disillusionment, mistrust of, and a dangerous alienation from, our democracy itself.”
Chesterfield campaigner Scott Lomax, who represents prisoners claiming to be victims of miscarriages of justice, has written books about Jeremy Bamber – one of three convicted killers who took their cases to the European Court yesterday.
Bamber, 51, has been behind bars for more than 25 years after being found guilty of shooting dead his adopted parents, his sister and her twin sons at their farmhouse in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex.
Mr Lomax, a graduate of Sheffield University, said: “Bamber has often discussed this issue with me and referred to a whole-life tariff as ‘inflicting the death penalty using old age as the method’.
“He has long believed he would win this case.”
What do think?
Should criminals given a life sentence stay in prison for life?