A serial killer has lost an appeal against his whole life prison term, which means that he will die in jail. The key ruling means that courts in Britain can continue imposing the sentences, which mean that criminals have no chance of being released.

Arthur Hutchinson, who is from Hartlepool in the North East, argued that the life means life punishment was inhuman and degrading because he had no hope of being released. However, judges said there had not been a violation of human rights laws.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights decided that whole life sentences in Britain were compatible with the law. Hutchinson was sentenced to life in jail for stabbing married couple Basil and Avril Laitner to death before killing one of their sons after he broke into their home.

Sentence was increased

When he was originally tried, the judge said that he should be jailed for life, with a minimum of 18 years. However, the then home secretary Leon Brittan later decided that the gravity of his crimes meant that the whole life tariff should be imposed.

Eight years ago, Hutchinson lost an appeal in the Court of Appeal against his whole life tariff. Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights then threw out the case and Hutchinson went forward with a further appeal at the Strasbourg court’s Grand Chamber. However, the appeal process is now over, meaning that prison terms which ensure that life means life can continue to be handed out. Under these terms, the criminal is never considered for release, so when they are sentenced they know they will be in jail until they die. The sentence is passed only in the most severe cases.

In this latest judgment, the Grand Chamber decided by 14 votes to three that there had been no breach of Hutchinson’s human rights.