Whole-Life Sentences: Judges Rule ‘It’s Legal’

UK Court of Appeal rules that judges can continue to impose whole life orders in accordance with Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003


Britain’s jails are overflowing.  More than 90,000 prisoners are currently incarcerated within their walls.   

For almost all of these prisoners the aim is rehabilitation and release, but a tiny number are deemed so dangerous and depraved, that they will never be freed.  

Leading judges have decided that criminals can be jailed for their entire lives.

Five Court of Appeal judges ruled on whole-life sentences, which are sometimes given to the most serious murderers and terrorists.

The so-called ‘life-means-life’ sentences have been called into question after European judges decided last year that whole-life tariffs amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Sentencing in some of the most high profile murder cases has been put on hold ahead of the judges’ decision.

Those affected include Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the killers of soldier Lee Rigby,who will be sentenced after the Court of Appeal decision.

Those currently serving whole-life terms in England and Wales include Moors Murderer Ian Brady, who tortured and murdered children with accomplice Myra Hindley, and serial killer Rosemary West.

The Government has said that such sentences are “wholly justified in the most heinous cases”.

But such terms were deemed a breach of human rights following a successful appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by murderers Jeremy Bamber, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore.

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court did not say that whole-life tariffs were wrong in principle.

Instead, they said it was unacceptable that any convict should spend their time in jail without the prospect of parole.

The European court said that a review of the whole-lifer’s sentence should occur no later than 25 years into their term.

The ruling, by 17 judges from across Europe, sparked outrage among critics of the court – despite reassurances that the decision did not amount to grounds for imminent release.

Those protesting said it was not right that a European court should have a say in how long British criminals should spend in British prisons.

As well as the spotlight being on whole-life orders generally, the Court of Appeal judges are making a decision about the sentencing of Lee Newell, who murdered child killer Subhan Anwar in prison.

Newell, now 45, is challenging a whole-life sentence imposed last September at Warwick Crown Court.

He was convicted alongside Gary Smith for the February 2013 murder of convicted child killer Anwar in his cell at Long Lartin Prison, Worcestershire. Newell was already serving a life sentence for a previous murder committed in 1988.

The judges have also been asked to rule on whether Ian McLoughlin, who was sentenced to 40 years for murder, can be forced to die in jail.

Triple killer McLoughlin, 55, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last October for stabbing a man on his first day-release from prison after 21 years in custody.

When sentencing McLoughlin, the trial judge imposed a 40-year tariff, saying he could not pass a whole-life term because of the European court ruling.

McLoughlin – who had killed twice before – stabbed Graham Buck, 66, as he came to the aid of a neighbour in Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, last July.

Today’s ruling will be given by Lord Thomas, Sir Brian Leveson, Lady Justice Hallett, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Burnett


MOST EVIL: The UK’s 54 current “life means life” prisoners


Monsters … Jeremy Bamber, Peter Sutcliffe, Rose West, Levi Bellfield, Mark Bridger

Jeremy Bamber: Murdered parents, sister and her twin six-year-old sons at farmhouse in Essex in 1985

Peter Sutcliffe: Yorkshire Ripper killed 13 women and attacked seven more in Yorkshire and Manchester between 1975 and 1980

Rose West: Helped hubby Fred murder ten women and girls, including her daughter, in Gloucester

Levi Bellfield: Monster attacked three women, killing two, and teenager Milly Dowler in sexually motivated attacks

Mark Bridger: Got life in May for murdering April Jones, five, after snatching her in North Wales


From left … Ian Brady, John Duffy, Anthony Arkwright, Victor Miller

Ian Brady: Moors murderer, 75, killed five children with Myra Hindley and buried them on Saddleworth Moor in 1960s. Convicted in 1966

John Duffy: Railway killer, 54, raped scores of women in the South of England, murdering three, before being caged in 1988.

Anthony Arkwright: Hacked three people to death including his grandad during a two-day spree in Yorkshire in August 1988. Now aged 44.

Victor Miller: Sexually assaulted and battered to death a boy, 14, from Hagley, Worcs, in 1988. Blamed for 30 other attacks. Aged 55.


From left … Dale Cregan, Peter Moore, Robert Maudsley, Paul Glen

Dale Cregan: Murdered four people, including two woman cops, using guns and grenades in Manchester. Cregan, 30, jailed last month.

Peter Moore: Confessed to killing four men in Wales in 1995, but claimed at trial fictional lover “Jason” had carried out attacks. Now 65.

Robert Maudsley: “Hannibal the Cannibal”, 60, killed three while in prison for another murder in the 1970s.

Paul Glen: Professional hitman, 39, killed a friend of his intended victim in 2004. Had a previous conviction for murder.


Killers … Anthony Entwistle, Dennis Nilsen, John McGrady, Robert Black

Anthony Entwistle: Killed girl of 16 in Blackburn in 1987, weeks after being released from prison for sexually assaulting two women. Now 63.

Dennis Nilsen: Ex-policeman, 67, dismembered 15 men and stored the body parts in and around his home in North London. Caged 1983.

John McGrady: Jailed in 2006 for strangling and mutilating a 15-year-old girl in London before dumping her remains in bin bags. Now 54.

Robert Black: Paedophile, 66, raped and killed three schoolgirls in the 1980s before dumping their bodies hundreds of miles away.


Whole-life terms … Arthur Hutchinson, Rahan Arshad, Peter Tobin, Steve Wright

Arthur Hutchinson: Crashed a wedding in Sheffield, killing the bride’s father, mother and brother, and raping her sister at knifepoint. Now 71.

Rahan Arshad: The 42-year-old murdered his wife and three children in their home in Cheadle Hulme, Greater Manchester, in 2006.

Peter Tobin: Killed a woman in a Glasgow church in 2006. Remains of two victims from 1991 were found in his garden in Kent. Now 66.

Steve Wright: Suffolk Strangler, 55, murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich in 2006. Found guilty on all counts in February 2008.


Evil … Douglas Vinter, Victor Castigador, Stephen Griffiths, Anthony Hardy

Douglas Vinter: Stabbed and strangled wife in 2008, three years after serving nine years for murdering a work colleague. Now aged 43.

Victor Castigador: Filipino illegal immigrant, 58, killed two guards at a London amusement arcade by setting them on fire in 1989.

Stephen Griffiths: ”Crossbow Cannibal” , 43, convicted in 2010 of killing three women in Bradford, with one involving a crossbow.

Anthony Hardy: Camden Ripper, 62, killed three women in London to “satisfy his depraved and perverted needs”. Given full life tariff in 2010


Murderers … Viktor Dembovskis and Phillip Heggarty

Viktor Dembovskis: Raped and murdered a 17-year-old girl in London before fleeing to Latvia. Had served 20 years for rape abroad. Now 49.

Phillip Heggarty: The 57-year-old was convicted in 2004 for murdering his best friend with a hammer and then burning the body in a car.


From left … John Childs, Marc Chivers, Royston Jackson

John Childs: Hitman John Childs, 73, murdered and burned six people in London between 1974 and 1978. Locked up in 1980.

Marc Chivers: Chivers, 46, strangled ex-lover Maria Stubbings with a dog lead in 2008 — just a year after his release for killing another ex.

Royston Jackson: The 46-year-old strangled pervert Gordon Boon in October 2008 — two years after he was let out on licence for a 1989 murder.

Ernest Wright, John Maden, Wilbert Dyce

From left … Ernest Wright, John Maden, Wilbert Dyce

Ernest Wright: Executed Neville Corby with a shotgun and tried to kill Corby’s partner. Had previous murder conviction in 1971. Now 71.

John Maden: Drugged raped and killed his niece, 12, after luring her to his Manchester home on the pretext of babysitting. Now aged 40.

Wilbert Dyce: Now 57, was convicted of the 1982 murders of a mum, 27, and her two daughters, seven and nine, in London.

John Sweeney, George Johnson, John Cooper

From left … John Sweeney, George Johnson, John Cooper

John Sweeney: Murdered two exes and dumped their mutilated bodies in canals in London and the Netherlands. Now aged 56.

George Johnson: Killed an 89-year-old woman in Rhyl, Wales, to fund his drug habit — the 49-year-old’s second murder conviction.

John Cooper: Cooper, now 68, killed a brother and sister in 1985 and a husband and wife in 1989, all in Pembrokeshire, West Wales

Andrew Dawson, David Baxendale, David Cook

From left … Andrew Dawson, David Baxendale, David Cook

Andrew Dawson: Killed his neighbours in Derby in 2010 while on licence from a previous murder conviction in the 1980s. Now aged 50.

David Baxendale: Stabbed a woman to death in Nutfield, Surrey, in June 2010. Previously convicted of a murder in Spain in 2001. Now 42.

David Cook: Killed a Sunday school teacher in 1988. Strangled a second victim while he was on parole in 2011. Now aged 66

Stephen Farrow, Thomas McDowell, Mark Martin, Mark Hobson

From left … Stephen Farrow, Thomas McDowell, Mark Martin, Mark Hobson

Stephen Farrow: A Vagrant, 48, with a history of psychiatric illness. Murdered a retired teacher and a vicar in Bewdley, Worcs. Jailed in 2012.

Thomas McDowell: Psychopath, 36, strangled and cut up a gay trainee rabbi with a ripsaw and dumped body parts in Camden, London.

Mark Martin: The Sneinton Strangler, 32. Killed three homeless women and said he wanted to be “Nottingham’s first serial killer”.

Mark Hobson: Binman, 43, killed his girlfriend, her twin sister and an elderly couple in Yorkshire before going on the run. Jailed in 2005

William Horncy, Kenneth Regan, Glyn Dix

From left … William Horncy, Kenneth Regan, Glyn Dix

William Horncy: Murdered millionaire Amarjit Chohan’s family in a bid to take over their freight firm to ship drugs into the UK. Now aged 58.

Kenneth Regan: Also guilty of the murders of millionaire Amarjit Chohan’s family. The bodies of Chohan’s two sons were never found. Age 59.

Glyn Dix: Hacked wife Hazel into 16 pieces at their home in Redditch, Worcs, in 2004 while on licence after a 1979 murder. Age 55.


Jailed … David Tiley and Michael Smith

David Tiley: Stabbed his disabled fiancée Susan Hale – two months after he was released from prison for rape. Jailed 2006. Now 53.

Michael Smith: The 60-year-old killed his victim with a bottle in Stafford after already serving time in prison for an earlier murder

Latest offenders to be given life means life sentences


23-YEAR-OLD Jamie Reynolds was given life means life in prison after sexually abusing and hanging a teenage girl after he lured her to his home.

Jamie Reynolds was deemed a “sexual deviant” by the judge as he sentenced the killer at Stafford Crown Court in December 2013

Reynolds had admitted to murdering 17-year-old Georgia Williams after his sadistic sexual plan. He then hanged the girl and drove her body to north Wales where he dumped it in the woodland.

anwar (1)

In Feb 2014, a psychopath was given a whole life sentence for the “savage” and “sadistic” murder of a four-year-old boy who was attacked as he slept in his own bed.

Former soldier Anwar Daniel Rosser stabbed little Riley Turner 30 times after Riley’s mum and her boyfriend allowed him to stay at her house in Keighley 


Ian McLoughlin was given a 40-year sentence after stabbing a man to death while on day release from prison. He was on day release from his minimum term 25-year sentence for the brutal murder of 56-year-old barman Peter Halls in Brighton in September 1990. McLoughlin stabbed 66-year-old Graham Buck as he came to the aid of a neighbour in Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire last July. He was also jailed for eight years for the manslaughter of a man in North London after beating him to death with a hammer and stashing his body in a cupboard in 1984.

Gary Smith and Lee Newell

Two prisoners who bound and strangled to death a fellow inmate in a high-security prison have been told they will serve the rest of their lives behind bars. Gary Smith, 48, and Lee Newell, 44, who were already serving life for killings, were both given whole-life sentences by a judge for the “chilling” murder of Subhan Anwar.

Smith and Newell followed 24-year-old Anwar into his cell in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire armed with weapons fashioned out of a pen and a toothbrush before binding his ankles with tape and strangling him with his own tracksuit bottoms. Smith then made Newell a cup of hot chocolate before they let prison guards into the cell and were taken away into segregation.

The pair blamed each other but a jury took less than four hours to find both guilty of the fatal attack. Smith and Newell have not said why they killed Anwar, but the judge pointed out that there was a “moral code” in prison that included targeting those guilty of offences against children. Anwar was serving time for killing a child.

SCHEDULE 21: Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence


1 In this Schedule—

  • “child” means a person under 18 years;

  • “mandatory life sentence” means a life sentence passed in circumstances where the sentence is fixed by law;

  • “minimum term”, in relation to a mandatory life sentence, means the part of the sentence to be specified in an order under section 269(2);

  • “whole life order” means an order under subsection (4) of section 269.

2 Section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37) (meaning of “racially or religiously aggravated”) applies for the purposes of this Schedule as it applies for the purposes of sections 29 to 32 of that Act.

3 For the purposes of this Schedule an offence is aggravated by sexual orientation if it is committed in circumstances falling within subsection (2)(a)(i) or (b)(i) of section 146.


Starting points

4 (1) If—

(a) the court considers that the seriousness of the offence (or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it) is exceptionally high, and

(b) the offender was aged 21 or over when he committed the offence, the appropriate starting point is a whole life order.

(2) Cases that would normally fall within sub-paragraph (1)(a) include—

(a) the murder of two or more persons, where each murder involves any of the following—

(i) a substantial degree of premeditation or planning,

(ii) the abduction of the victim, or

(iii) sexual or sadistic conduct,

(b) the murder of a child if involving the abduction of the child or sexual or sadistic motivation,

(c) a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [F1, racial] or ideological cause, or

(d) a murder by an offender previously convicted of murder.

5(1) If—

(a) the case does not fall within paragraph 4(1) but the court considers that the seriousness of the offence (or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it) is particularly high, and

(b) the offender was aged 18 or over when he committed the offence, the appropriate starting point, in determining the minimum term, is 30 years.

(2) Cases that (if not falling within paragraph 4(1)) would normally fall within sub-paragraph (1)(a) include—

(a) the murder of a police officer or prison officer in the course of his duty,

(b) a murder involving the use of a firearm or explosive,

(c) a murder done for gain (such as a murder done in the course or furtherance of robbery or burglary, done for payment or done in the expectation of gain as a result of the death),

(d) a murder intended to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice,

(e) a murder involving sexual or sadistic conduct,

(f) the murder of two or more persons,

(g) a murder that is racially or religiously aggravated or aggravated by sexual orientation, or

(h) a murder falling within paragraph 4(2) committed by an offender who was aged under 21 when he committed the offence.

[F25A (1) If—

(a) the case does not fall within paragraph 4(1) or 5(1),

(b) the offence falls within sub-paragraph (2), and

(c) the offender was aged 18 or over when the offender committed the offence, the offence is normally to be regarded as sufficiently serious for the appropriate starting point, in determining the minimum term, to be 25 years.

(2) The offence falls within this sub-paragraph if the offender took a knife or other weapon to the scene intending to—

(a) commit any offence, or

(b) have it available to use as a weapon, and used that knife or other weapon in committing the murder.

6 If the offender was aged 18 or over when he committed the offence and the case does not fall [within paragraph 4(1), 5(1) or 5A(1)], the appropriate starting point, in determining the minimum term, is 15 years.

7 If the offender was aged under 18 when he committed the offence, the appropriate starting point, in determining the minimum term, is 12 years.

Aggravating and mitigating factors

8 Having chosen a starting point, the court should take into account any aggravating or mitigating factors, to the extent that it has not allowed for them in its choice of starting point.

9 Detailed consideration of aggravating or mitigating factors may result in a minimum term of any length (whatever the starting point), or in the making of a whole life order.

10 Aggravating factors (additional to those mentioned in paragraph 4(2) [F4, 5(2) and 5A(2)]) that may be relevant to the offence of murder include—

(a) a significant degree of planning or premeditation,

(b) the fact that the victim was particularly vulnerable because of age or disability,

(c) mental or physical suffering inflicted on the victim before death,

(d) the abuse of a position of trust,

(e) the use of duress or threats against another person to facilitate the commission of the offence,

(f) the fact that the victim was providing a public service or performing a public duty, and

(g) concealment, destruction or dismemberment of the body.

11 Mitigating factors that may be relevant to the offence of murder include—

(a) an intention to cause serious bodily harm rather than to kill,

(b) lack of premeditation,

(c) the fact that the offender suffered from any mental disorder or mental disability which (although not falling within section 2(1) of the Homicide Act 1957 (c. 11)), lowered his degree of culpability,

(d) the fact that the offender was provoked (for example, by prolonged stress) F5. . . ,

(e) the fact that the offender acted to any extent in self-defence [F6or in fear of violence],

(f) a belief by the offender that the murder was an act of mercy, and

(g) the age of the offender.

12 Nothing in this Schedule restricts the application of—

(a)section 143(2) (previous convictions),

(b)section 143(3) (bail), or

(c)section 144 (guilty plea).

[F7or of section 238 (1) (b) or (c) or 239 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.]