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9 July 2013, 11:05 | Updated: 9 July 2013, 12:25
Whole-life jail terms without the possibility of review amount to a breach of human rights, European judges have ruled.
Murderer Jeremy Bamber and two other killers, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore, have won an appeal in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights that their sentences amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.
The court found that for a life sentence to remain compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights there had to be both a possibility of release and a possibility of review.
However, the panel of 17 judges added: "In finding a violation in this case, however, the court did not intend to give the applicants any prospect of imminent release.''
Bamber, 51, has been behind bars for more than 25 years for shooting his wealthy adopted parents June and Neville, his sister Sheila Caffell and her six-year-old twin sons Daniel and Nicholas at their farmhouse in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex.
He was given a whole-life tariff after being convicted of the murders in October 1986
Under current law, whole-life tariff prisoners will almost certainly never be released from prison as their offences are deemed to be so serious.
They can be freed only by the Justice Secretary, who can give discretion on compassionate grounds when the prisoner is terminally ill or seriously incapacitated.
A panel of five judges decided in July last year that the Grand Chamber should hear the appeal after the court ruled earlier this year that condemning people to die in jail was not "grossly disproportionate''.
The Court held by four votes to three on January 17 that there had been no violation of Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enshrined in UK law in the Human Rights Act and prohibits ''inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment''.