Whole life tariff

From Academic Kids

The whole life tariff came into force in 1983 when the British Home Secretary began to set minimum terms that convicted murderers had to serve before being considered for release on life licence. The intention of a whole life tariff was for a prisoner to spend the whole of his or her life behind bars without prospect of parole, although the prisoner could appeal to the High Court or even the European Court of Human Rights to have the tariff reduced.

Successive Conservative and Labour Home Secretaries set whole life sentences for the following convicted murderers (note this list is incomplete):

Name Year Notes
John_Straffen 1950s Britain's longest serving prisoner who was convicted of murdering two young pre-teen girls in the 1950s. He escaped not long after his conviction and, despite being recaptured within hours, he murdered another girl. Having spent 50 years in custody, he is now in a mental hospital.
Ian_Brady 1966 Convicted of murdering three children (with his accomplice Myra Hindley) and confessing to two more murders in 1986. Because the victim's bodies were buried in shallow groves on Saddleworth Moor, Brady and Hindley were known as The Moors Murderers. Since 1985 has been held in a mental hospital and although the November 2002 law lord's ruling means he could be released this year when his original 40-year tariff expires, Brady has made it clear that he never wants to be released.
Myra_Hindley 1966 Ian Brady's accomplice. Convicted of murdering two children and being an accessory to Ian Brady in the murder of a third, as well as later admitting to murdering two more children - one of whose bodies has never been found. Given a 25-year minimum term by the trial judge, which was agreed on in 1982 by the Lord Chief Justice. Increased to 30 years in 1988 and whole life in 1990. Later made three appeals against the whole life tariff but all were rejected, and she died at the age of 60 in November 2002 just weeks before a law lord's ruling would probably have secured her freedom. Myra Hindley's death started a debate as to whether it is right to keep someone in prison until they die.
Harry_Roberts: 1966 Shot dead three policemen during a robbery. Has never been officially handed a whole-life tariff and is currently in an open prison, but has now spent 38 years behind bars and his chances of release are looking slim.
Robert_Maudsley 1971. Has subsequently killed three fellow prison inmates, including one he scalped.
Donald_Neilson 1976 Shot dead three postmasters and a security guard as well as abducting a 17-year-old heiress who was later found dead. Because of his distinctive black costume Neilson was nicknamed The Black Panther. The trial judge said that Neilson should only be released from prison due to great age or infirmity, and the Lord Chief Justice later set a 30-year minimum sentence. This was later increased to whole life by the Home Secretary. Under the November 2002 law lord's ruling, Neilson could still be released from prison - in 2006 at the earliest.
Peter_Sutcliffe 1981 Murdered 13 women and attacked 7 others across Yorkshire, hence his nickname The Yorkshire Ripper. Was originally sentenced to a minimum of 30 years by his trial judge, but was later given a whole life tariff by the government and is now in a high security mental hospital. Following the November 2002 law lord's ruling, Sutcliffe could one day be released from custody - possibly in 2011 when he turns 65, if the parole board decides he no longer presents a risk to the public.
Dennis_Nilsen 1983 Dismembered and murdered 13 men at his flat in North London. Trial judge originally recommended a 25-year minimum sentence, but successive home secretaries decided that Nilsen should never be released from prison. But the November 2002 law lord's ruling means that Nilsen could still be released from prison as early as 2008 (by which time he will be 63 years old) if the parole board decides he is no longer a danger to the public.
Colin_Ireland 1993 The so-called 'Gay Slayer' who murdered five homosexual men in London during 1993, primarily so he could become classified as a serial killer. Police believe Ireland may not have reoffended had he successfully killed his sixth victim and therefore met the criteria to be considered a serial killer as opposed to a mass murderer.
Robert_Black 1994 A paedophile who raped and killed three schoolgirls in the 1980s and is suspected of other child murders. He was convicted in 1994, and the trial judge recommended a minimum term of 35 years - which would make him ineligible for release until 2029 and the age of 82. He was later given a whole life tariff by the home secretary, although the November 2002 law lord's ruling means that he could still receive early release.
Rosemary_West 1995 Convicted for the murder of 10 women and girls at her home in Gloucester, including two of her own daughters. Husband Fred West committed suicide before he could go on trial for a total of 12 murders. Police believe the Wests may have murdered as many as 30 persons. West's trial judge (and the Lord Chief Justice), had originally recommended that she should serve a minimum of 25 years, which would have made her eligible for release in 2019 at the age of 66. But she was later given a whole life tariff by Home Secretary Jack Straw, who made the ruling in 1997. Following the November 2002 law lord's ruling, West could be released in 2019 if the parole board decides she no longer presents a risk.
Harold_Shipman 2002 Former GP who was convicted of killing 15 of his patients at his surgery in Hyde, Greater Manchester, in the 1990s, giving them lethal doses of morphine. Shipman was convicted of the killings on 31st January 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment, the trial judge recommended that he should never be released. Two years later the Home Secretary agreed. An official inquiry in July 2002 concluded Shipman could have killed as many as 260 of his patients, making him Britain's worst serial killer. Shipman hanged himself in his prison cell on 13th January 2004, the day before what would have been his 58th birthday.
David_Bieber: 2004 Former US Marine who shot dead Policeman Ian Broadhurst in December 2003, after being stopped for driving a stolen car in Leeds. He was sentenced to life imprisonment almost a year later, and the trial judge recommended that he should never be released. This was the first time that such a recommendation had been made since the power of tariff-setting was moved from the hands of politicians to judges.
Mark Hobson 2005 35-year-old dustman from Yorkshire who murdered his girlfriend, her twin sister and an elderly couple in 2004. Pleaded guilty at his trial and was sentenced to life with a whole life tariff handed to him by the judge. [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/4586617.stm)


In November 2002, new human rights legislation and a law lords ruling stripped the Home Secretary of his powers to set tariffs and the minimum length of a life sentence is now set by the trial judge, although the Attorney General can appeal to the High Court for an unduly lenient sentence to be increased. The move followed a successful legal challenge by convicted double murderer Anthony Anderson, who was jailed for life in 1987 and was told by the trial judge that he should serve at least 15 years. But the Home Secretary later increased this to 20 years. Anderson claimed that his human rights were being breached and the High Court and European Court of Human Rights both agreed.

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