A triple murderer has launched the first challenge against a "whole life" sentence after an EU ruling which said a tariff forcing murderers to die in jail was “inhuman and degrading”, following an appeal by three killers.
These included Jeremy Bamber, who killed five members of his family in 1985.
Legal experts feared the initial challenge by Bamber and two other killers would lead to a deluge of similar claims, at great expense to the taxpayer, by all 49 killers and rapists serving whole life tariffs, as well as other murderers handed long sentences.
Simon McKay says his client Jeremy Bamber is no longer "consigned to the prospect of spending his whole life in jail" but today's ruling will not result in his immediate release.
My client is obviously pleased with today's decision although it will not result in his release imminently or anytime soon. But it does mean he is not consigned to the prospect of spending his whole life in jail, effectively a death sentence by another name. A civilised society is defined by how it treats those who act outside its laws and that the UK will now be obligated to review whole life tariffs is a progressive and humane development.
Those properly convicted of dreadful crimes must be punished but there must also be the hope of rehabilitation in appropriate cases. Jeremy continues to protest his innocence and later this year I will be lodging a fresh application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. His 30 year fight for justice continues.
A statement from Jeremy Bamber, who maintains his innocence to this day, has appeared on his blog, following today's European Court of Human Rights ruling.
It read: "I am the only person in the UK who was retrospectively given a life tariff on a majority verdict that maintains innocence.
"The verdict today seems in so many ways to be hollow, as I am still serving a prison sentence for a crime I did not commit.
"My whole life order has now been given a system of reviews, but there is no provision for someone who is wrongly convicted to prove that they are worthy of release, such hope is in reality, no hope at all.
"Reviews and parole hearings are subject to a risk assessment to gauge dangerousness and this is influenced by the inmate's confession, remorse and rehabilitation for reintegration back into the community. In my case I do not fit the criteria for parole on this basis.
"The justice system, despite the investment in the Criminal Cases Review Commission, still refuses to accept that there are prisoners who are innocent of the crimes they have been convicted of and this comes into conflict with sentence reviews.
"While there are some people who have been released at the end of their sentence and still maintained innocence, such as Eddie Gilfoyle and Susan May, it is unlikely I would ever be released without my conviction being overturned...Simply because of the high profile nature of my case.
"As is always, the law does not apply if it assists me in anyway."
Douglas Vinter's lawyer Simon Creighton has said the European Court of Human Rights' ruling could not be used as a "get out of jail free" excuse for life-term prisoners.
It's very important the court have recognised that no sentence should be once and for all and there should always be some right to look at some sentences again in the future.
They have not said that anyone must be released, what they have said is that it must be reviewed.
– Douglas Vinter's lawyer Simon Creighton
Mr Creighton said the court is telling the Government to return to what it was doing 10 years ago. He said there were "very careful" safeguards in place which must be passed before prisoners can even be considered for release.
"It's now for the Government to respond," Mr Creighton said.
"My client will look forward to their response with interest."