Three British nationals, who are all currently serving life sentences for murder, have filed an application to the highest court of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) arguing that their life sentences are in violation of Article 3 of the Declaration. Article 3 stands for the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment. The applicants argue that their sentences are inhuman and degrading because they have no hope for release. All three were sentenced to whole life orders, which means that they cannot be released except by the Secretary of State who may grant their release on compassionate grounds.
These three applicants are Douglas Vinter, Jeremy Neville Bamber and Peter Moore. Vinter was convicted in 2008 after stabbing his wife while on parole for committing a different murder. Bamber was convicted after shooting and killing his adoptive parents, sister and two other children. Moore was convicted after stabbing four men to death.
This case was already heard by a lower court in the ECtHR last year and it found no violation of Article 3. The lower court found that a fair trial was held for all the applicants and that their sentences were not disproportionate to the crimes they committed. The Grand Chamber will deliver a judgment on July 9, 2013.
I am not going to lie, I had a WTF moment after reading this case. It seems that these British prisoners have become a little delusional in prison. Their life sentences are inhuman?! Did they forget about the gruesome murders they committed? Or the people whose lives they cut short? I am shocked that this case was even heard by one of the Chamber courts and now will be heard by the Grand Chamber. In my opinion, it seems like the Court should be spending its time on other cases instead of these three murderers complaining that life in prison is too cruel. They are lucky to be alive.
Sources: Vinter and Others v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR
Photo Source: The Firm Magazine
I agree with McCallion; it is surprising that the ECtHR would even here such a case. My initial thought was that maybe they wanted to discard such a preposterous application once, so that others would not think to follow suit. These men all received fair trials and are serving their punishments accordingly (life in prison with no chance of parole). The crimes committed in these cases were brutal. These were shootings and stabbings of multiple people (including children) in chilling fashion.
The court here held that there was no violation of Article 3, but did so by a vote of 4-3 in all three cases. Once I saw that, I had to read the dissent. The dissenters noted that while life in prison was a proper punishment, Article 3 was violated here because these men were sentenced to life in prison without any chance of review or parole. The dissenters argued for an Article 3 violation stating that this lack of a review mechanism results in the prisoners having no ‘hope’ of ever having a life outside prison walls (thus amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3). Hope? I hope the families of the victims do not read the dissent.
I agree with views put forth by both Patrice and Ms. Campbell. I find it hard to believe that the ECtHR would waste its time hearing the applications of Vinter, Bamber, and Moore. Perhaps if the facts were altered and the types of murders involved here were not premeditated, it may make sense to hear the applications of these men. However, in this particular scenario I do not think there is any place for this as all of the applicants committed multiple murders. Clearly they could not control themselves and the idea that ECtHR would even listen to these applications is ridiculous.
The dissenters saying that these prisoners have no “hope” of ever having a life outside prison walls should look at the gravity of the crimes committed in these individual cases. The type of violence committed by these men show that they have no regard for human life and having them released on parole risks the chance that they commit these gruesome crimes again. The chance for further people to fall victim to these individuals warrants stripping Vinter, Bamber, and Moore (and any others in a similar situation) of any “hope” of living outside of prison.
It is not a suprise that these claims were denied by the court on July 9th. It is even more suprising that these defendants not only sought a reduction in their sentences, but they also sought damages for suffering a prolonged prison sentence. The Court stated that if the whole life orders were grossly disproportionate to the crime committed or their continued incarceration serves no legitimate penological purpose then there is a violation of Article 3. Neither of these were found in either of the three cases. Each defendant committed callous murders, and Vinter has only been in prison for 3 years. They should have thought about “hope” before they took away the lives of others.