Indeterminate sentences are a breach of human rights under Article 5(1) ECHR

Tuesday 18 September 2012

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The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that indeterminate prison sentences are a violation of Article 5(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to liberty and security. The ruling applies to prisoners detained beyond the minimum term of their sentence.

Pete Weatherby QC represented the lead applicant Mr Brett James in James, Wells and Lee v UK [2012] ECHR. Mr James, who had been detained for five months beyond his tariff was awarded €3000 in damages.

Indeterminate Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences were introduced in 2005. Prisoners serving IPP sentences have no right to parole, and on expiry of their tariffs can only be released if and when a Parole Board is satisfied that they no longer present a threat to the public.

The ruling has potentially widespread implications for the estimated 14,000 IPP prisoners in the UK - more than the total number in the other 46 Council of Europe states combined.

Click here to read the full judgment.

The case has received widespread media coverage, including by the BBC, Channel 4, The Guardian, and The Telegraph.

Pete Weatherby QC is a member of the Garden Court Prison Law Team.

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