Double killer challenges his whole-life tariff

Darlington and Stockton Times: LIFE TERM: Douglas Gary Vinter LIFE TERM: Douglas Gary Vinter

A CONVICTED double killer will have to wait to discover whether his appeal against his whole-life sentence will be overturned.

Douglas Gary Vinter, who was last week sentenced for stabbing notorious child killer Roy Whiting in the eye while in Wakefield prison, took his case to the European Court of Human Rights along with two other men facing no chance of release.

Lawyers for the 42-year-old, from Middlesbrough, along with Jeremy Bamber and Peter Moore, urged judges in Strasbourg to rule that UK law allowing the most dangerous offenders to be kept behind bars until they die breaches their human rights.

The European Court of Human Rights backed the UK last January in a narrow 4-3 majority vote declaring that it was not grossly disproportionate for the country’s notorious criminals to be imprisoned indefinitely.

And only last week, in a separate case, the London Court of Appeal upheld the principle that whole-life sentences do not violate human rights as long as jail without possibility of release is reserved for the few exceptionally serious offences.

In today’s (Wednesday) last appeal to the 17-judge Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, lawyers called for a definitive ruling that whole-life jail amounts to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment banned by the European Human Rights Convention.

The one-day hearing was an appeal into the cases of Vinter, convicted of stabbing his wife in February 2008, having already served nine years for stabbing to death a work colleague in 1996; Bamber, convicted of killing his adoptive parents, sister and her two young children in 1985; and Moore, convicted of killing four gay men in 1995. Bamber has always maintained his innocence.

All three received whole-life jail orders, meaning they can only ever be released at the discretion of the Home Secretary on compassionate grounds, such as terminal illness or if seriously incapacitated.

At last week’s ruling in the London Court of Appeal in three separate cases, the judges upheld a whole-life sentence given to David Oakes, convicted of torturing and shooting his partner and their daughter in Essex.

The judges overturned whole-life orders in the cases of two others, reducing the penalty to life with the possibility of parole.

But the appeal verdict against Oakes has been seen as a warning to the Strasbourg judges hearing today’s human rights appeal cases that courts in England and Wales want to maintain the option of whole-life jail terms.

The Grand Chamber verdict will not be announced until next year. Decisions from the court often take up to nine months to consider.

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