UK considers huge US-style jail terms to avoid 'whole-life' ban

judge

Jailing worst offenders for 'hundreds' of years could be solution to ECHR ban on whole-life tariffs

LAST UPDATED AT 12:53 ON Thu 2 Jan 2014

MURDERERS and other serious offenders could be given US-style jail sentences totalling hundreds of years under changes designed to "get round" a European ban on whole-life terms, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Ministers are considering the change that would allow British judges to jail the most serious criminals for "decades and even hundreds of years", the paper says.

The move would be a response to stand-off between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Last year, the ECHR declared that Britain’s "whole-life" tariffs - which effectively sentence a criminal to die in jail - breached the European Convention on Human Rights. The tariffs contravene the convention, the ECHR ruled, because they do not offer a "right to review".

By sentencing a prisoner to, say, 100 years in jail, the British courts would hold open the possibility of having the term reviewed and possibly shortened, but the prisoner would still die in prison. As a result, the ECHR ban on whole-life tariffs would be circumvented, the Telegraph explains.

The sentences handed to the worst US offenders are notoriously long. Last year, Ariel Castro – the Ohio man who held three women captive in his Cleveland home for a decade – was imprisoned for life without parole plus 1,000 years.

A government source told the Telegraph: "The European Court of Human Rights seems to be making decisions a million miles away from what the vast majority of the public think. They don't want any possibility of the most horrible of criminals walking the streets again, and this plan could be a way to make sure that doesn't happen."

The London Evening Standard says there are 49 prisoners serving whole-life terms in England and Wales. Ian McLoughlin, who was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years for murdering a man while on day release from another murder sentence in July, avoided a whole-life term because of the ECHR ruling.

However, Jamie Reynolds, the man who killed 17-year-old Georgia Williams last year, was given a whole-life sentence last month after warnings that he had the potential to become a serial killer. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.