Journal Article

Irreducible Life Sentences: What Difference have the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Kingdom Human Rights Act Made?

Andrew Dyer

in Human Rights Law Review

Volume 16, issue 3, pages 541-584
Published in print September 2016 | ISSN: 1461-7781
Published online June 2016 | e-ISSN: 1744-1021 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hrlr/ngw014
Irreducible Life Sentences: What Difference have the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Kingdom Human Rights Act Made?

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A comparison between United Kingdom (UK) and Australian law concerning irreducible life sentences indicates that human rights charters and/or other strong human rights guarantees in a jurisdiction can produce improved protections for offenders against penal populism. In a series of challenges to draconian state laws that remove any possibility of parole from 10 notorious murderers, the Australian courts steadfastly refused to intervene. Without clear authority to consider such legislation’s effect on human rights, the judges were careful to avoid creating any perception that they were undemocratically overriding Parliament’s will. But while the UK approach to irreducible life sentences is more desirable than that prevailing in Australia—especially concerning child offenders—Vinter v United Kingdom and succeeding events demonstrate that even courts that have explicitly been empowered to resolve human rights controversies possess far from a complete freedom, or ability, to effect change in this emotive area.

Keywords: irreducible life sentences; penology; torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; human rights charters; Australia; United Kingdom; Vinter v United Kingdom; Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights

Journal Article.  26298 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration ; Human Rights

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