Life sentences are a sensitive matter, not least due to the complicated implications this has on a persons human rights. A whole life order states that one can only be released from prison at the Justice Secretary's discretion, and this will only happen on compassionate grounds, i.e. in the event of severe or terminal illness.
European Conventions Of Human Rights
Recently, three men's life sentences were deemed to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and as such were altered so that they now are eligible to have their sentence reviewed. The European Court stated that for the sentences to be lawful there must be a possibility of release and a review of their sentence. Before this ruling, the severity of their crimes dictated that release was impossible.
The ruling has been condemned by Conservative politicians in the UK, with PM David Cameron backing whole-life tariffs. It has been claimed that, should Cameron win the next election, he would consider withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights. MP Theresa May has also voiced her opinion, saying that she believes the Human Rights Act should be scrapped.
The Purpose Of Rehabilitation
The Courts panel has said however that despite an alteration to the conditions of their sentences, they were unlikely to be released any time soon, if ever. A spokesperson for the Prison Reform Trust also spoken out about the ruling, saying:
"Rehabilitation is a purpose of sentencing alongside punishment. Reinstating the possibility of review, albeit with little prospect of release, puts a degree of hope into the lives of those very few people serving whole-life tariffs and affirms prison staff in their work to enable prisoners to progress even the longest of sentences."
Law Gazette; Life Imprisonment Breaches Human Rights
Law Gazette: Political Storm Over Strasbourg
The Guardian; Whole Life Sentences
The Independent; Jeremy Bamber Case