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Are life sentences a breach of human rights?

(19 Posts)
Notsoyummymummy1 Tue 09-Jul-13 22:37:23

The European Court of Human rights has ruled that it is - can anyone please explain this? What about the rights of murder victims' families to have the peace of mind of knowing they will never have to see the killer again? What about the rights of the public to be protected from dangerous people? I really can't understand why one individual's rights are deemed more important than those of everyone else. We need a proper deterrent for serious crime and this will destroy that. People choose to commit crimes knowing the possible consequences - no-one makes them do it!

TabithaStephens Tue 09-Jul-13 22:50:16

Is it any wonder why people want us to leave the EU when stuff like this happens? Utterly ridiculous.

Panonabike Tue 09-Jul-13 22:58:24

I'd go with it. The needs of the victims families to not bump into these people isn't being compromised. And this ruling doesn't herald early release for anyone of them. Storms and teacups, in effect.

edam Tue 09-Jul-13 23:15:55

It's not the EU. The European Convention on Human rights is separate. It was drafted largely by British lawyers, under the auspices of Churchill, after WW2 - to try to stop anything quite so appalling happening again.

As for whole life tariffs, I'm not sure. Taking away any possibility of review, ever, may well create dangerous prisoners - because what have they got to lose if they murder a prison officer, for instance?

Some people are no doubt so dangerous that they should never be released - but shouldn't that danger be re-assessed? Someone may have been a continuing risk 10 years ago, can we assume he or she will always be a risk?

I have interviewed a released lifer - as in released from prison, but a life sentence does mean life in the sense that you can always be returned to prison if you breach the conditions of release.

He had reformed over a period of 20 years. It doesn't excuse his crime, but the circumstances that led up to it were appalling. He had no way of knowing how to fit into society because he had been cast out as a child, with neglectful/absent/actively cruel parenting followed by time in 'care' (he ran away) and life on the streets. (One parent had died, and who knows what the other parent would have been like if that tragedy hadn't affected them...)

What reformed him was a prison tutor who persuaded him to get an education, which in turn opened his eyes to the world. Education helped him to understand other people's rights and feelings and to understand rights and responsibilities.

Since being released, he has made a significant contribution to the world but he told me he knows that he can never put right what he did wrong. He just wants to justify the belief that tutor showed in him - he never wants to let her down.

It was quite moving but part of me was cynical, thinking 'has he just learned that these are the right things to say?' But I know for sure he has not re-offended. And he did serve 20 years.

MisForMumNotMaid Tue 09-Jul-13 23:28:27

I had a long car journey earlier today and spent some time feeling angry about the time/ money/ effort being dedicated to serious convicted criminals.

I do feel that some of the points made about without hope of a life outside prison there is no hope for them to behave within prison. That makes management of them very difficult. I think that to remove all hope is a breach of human rights.

But there are so many more important things that should be dealt with. So these serious offenders should have the 'human' right to table their concern but I feel as a society, reviewing this is neither urgent or important so should sit on the list of 'to be done' until it gets to the top of the list as a priority over every other issue.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Jul-13 06:46:23

Currently a 'life sentence' does not always mean 'whole life'. There is already some variability and you'll read that someone was given a life sentence 'with a recommendation that they serve a minimum of 20 years'. 'Whole life tariffs' are only dished out in the very worst murder cases. Jeremy Bamber, one of the appellants here, killed five members of his own family, for example. Only 37 whole life sentences have ever been handed down ... the last one being April Jones' killer, Mark Bridger.

The Human Rights Court ruling is that all life sentences should come up for review after 25 years. In practical terms, it would mean that the 'whole life' convict would apply for parole, be assessed and then locked straight back up. So, even if this ruling came into being, it wouldn't make any practical difference to the outcome. Murderers would still be behind bars.

niceguy2 Wed 10-Jul-13 08:24:38

I can understand why whole life sentences make it hard to manage a prisoner because they've nothing left to lose so to speak.

But at the same time they are reserved for the very worse murderer's. And it seems to me that it sends out the wrong signals to say they are a breach of the criminal's human rights.

If the murderer has disregarded their victim's most basic human right (the right to life) then it seems a bit rich to then protest about not respecting their human rights.

WidowWadman Wed 10-Jul-13 09:47:14

Right to review does not mean right to be definitely released. Just review. It's really common sense, isn't it? Doesn't society gain by giving people an incentive to want to reform? Doesn't society lose by "throwing away the key" without at least leaving the option of reviewing cases?

Also, I'm getting seriously annoyed by people not being able to tell apart EU from the ECHR or actually looking at what the Court's judgement was. It nowhere said that prisoners mustn't serve life at all. That's nasty dangerous spin on a very common sense judgement.

edam Wed 10-Jul-13 13:35:53

Yeah, but niceguy, it's the hard cases that make the point; if we only grant human rights to nice people, they aren't rights, are they? It's like freedom of speech - freedom for people to say nice things isn't freedom at all, free speech means allowing people who disagree with us or say nasty things to speak.

niceguy2 Wed 10-Jul-13 21:50:54

Edam i get it. I can see both sides of the arguments. I'm just also aware that if I was the family of a murder victim then I would probably feel very differently.

There's also the argument of deterrence to others. Putting in people in prison for varying lengths of time according to seriousness of crime serves to punish the perpetrator but also deter others from doing the same.

The question is does this weaken our system? I think it does albeit only ever so slightly.

edam Wed 10-Jul-13 21:56:46

YY many families of murder victims may well feel differently - although not all, we shouldn't presume that we know how each individual feels.

But that's not what justice is about - otherwise it would be retribution, not justice. The state prosecutes, not the victim or victim's family. Thank heavens - God forbid but if I was ever in those shoes, I wouldn't want the burden of deciding the fate of the perpetrator.

WafflyVersatile Wed 10-Jul-13 22:07:05

Do you think this change will see a surge in murders being committed, niceguy?

People thinking I didn't think it was worth killing that twat next door before but with this ruling I'm reconsidering my options.

WestmorlandSausage Wed 10-Jul-13 22:16:03

I absolutely feel that all prisoners should have the right to have their sentences reviewed at some point. There is no suggestion in any of this that people will actually be released from life sentences just that they have the right to appeal the conditions of their sentence at various points throughout it.

The news reporting on this has been sensationalist at best. This is an emotive issue that people are not being given the full facts about to understand.

Human Rights legislation protects everyone not just prisoners.

MrJudgeyPants Wed 10-Jul-13 22:17:00

Are life sentences a breach of human rights?

Not as much as murdering someone is.

On the other hand, how does a whole life tariff differ ethically from capital punishment?

WestmorlandSausage Wed 10-Jul-13 22:19:42

so Mr Judgey Pants, are we a society that hands out punishment on an eye for an eye basis?

MrJudgeyPants Wed 10-Jul-13 23:31:43

No, I don't think we are. The point I was making was how does a whole life tariff, without the possibility of parole, differ from executing someone? If we are happy that a given criminal will never enjoy their freedom again what difference does it make ethically if that individual lives for 50 years or more behind bars or is executed in a timely manner?

I don't feel strongly one way or the other towards the death penalty - if pressed, I would probably prefer that we don't have it - but I'm not convinced that unlimited detention, with no chance of release, is necessarily kinder than the alternative.

Dervel Sun 14-Jul-13 02:09:56

The whole point of human rights are rights that all human beings have in law. One does not unfortunately become suddenly not human upon committing a crime, and in essence having human rights at all is a sign of an advancing society.

Personally I believe that something is lost when society makes those rights contingent on certain things. I can get behind a society wishing to protect itself, and making judgements on certain actions committed in order to protect itself. However I would not want to live in a society that starts handing out rights as privileges. Human Rights apply to either everyone or they are not rights at all they are privileges.

MrJudgeyPants Sun 14-Jul-13 10:41:06

Surely rights can be withdrawn though. Sending someone to prison breaches that individuals right to liberty, free association and a family life so we are already happy to withdraw some rights. I guess its about where you draw the line and all of a sudden there are no right or wrong answers.

CloudsAndTrees Sun 14-Jul-13 13:51:29

No, whole life sentences are not a breach of human rights. Not when these prisoners have easy access to everything they could possibly need, and more like counselling and education.

Locking them in a cell for life with no one else to ever talk to and only an hour outside each day with no stimulation whatsoever would be a breach of human rights, but prison really isn't that horrible a place to be when you have nothing to live for on the outside anyway.

The ECHR has become a joke, and the sooner we can withdraw from it, the better.

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