The Government has recently announced plans to consult on the possibility of imposing prison sentences in excess of 100-yrs in certain cases that would normally attract a life sentence. This is in response to a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling that ‘whole-life’ tariffs, where there is no possibility of release or review, were incompatible with the convention.

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jan/02/murderers-jail-sentences-100-years-considered-goverment

The Government’s considerations seem to me rather a radical proposition and somewhat using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

All the Government need do is to allow a review of the detention of those types of prisoners at some point during their sentence in order to be compatible with the convention. That could be after 25-yrs, 50-yrs or even later. The reality I suspect is after 25-yrs is the more realistic option given that most lifers at the age of conviction would most likely have passed away if a review is much later, therefore making it a pointless exercise. Indeed that used to be the position in past times, when the Home Secretary would review such cases after 25-yrs.

On a side note, it is interesting the Government is even engaging in this process given the anti-European Court rhetoric that has been coming out of Westminster over recent months. After all, the failure to comply with the convention on prisoners voting rights has dragged on for years now, without any sign of resolving itself in the near future. I suspect the UK Government, particularly under the Conservatives, will fight against any and all ECHR rulings regarding prisoners for sometime to come.

Carl Miles is a Solicitor at Burton Copeland's Trafford office, and is a prison law specialist. He can be contacted on 0161 905 8530