Irreducible Life Sentences: What Difference Have the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK Human Rights Act Made?
Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 541-584, 2016
42 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2015 Last revised: 18 Sep 2016
Date Written: December 13, 2015
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 ten 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, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, Vinter v United Kingdom, Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights, Australia, charters of rights
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K30, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation