Challenge to Whole Life Tariffs heard by European Court

On 28 November 2012, Simon Creighton was part of the legal team that presented the case challenging the legality of whole life tariffs to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

The challenge came after the Chamber of the European Court dismissed the initial challenge by a narrow majority of 4 judges to 3 in January 2012. The case seeks to argue that the imposition of a whole life sentence with no prospect of release amounts to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and breaches Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights. The concept of a whole life tariff that cannot be reduced whatever progress the prisoner may make is relatively recent in English law. Up until 2004, all such sentences were subject to a review by a Minister after 25 years but this power was removed when judges took over responsibility for setting tariffs. England is not only out of step with the rest of Europe on this issue, but also with Scotland and Northern Ireland where such sentences always remain subject to review.

Simon Creighton of Bhatt Murphy represents the lead applicant and was required by the European Court to present the case for all three applicants. The legal team also consisted of Pete Weatherby QC and Professor Dirk Van Zyl Smit from Nottingham University.

Read the Guardian's article on this story here.