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Whole-life sentence ruling could affect jail term of Lee Rigby killers
THE spotlight will be on controversial whole-life sentences when leading judges carry out test case reviews today, in a hearing which will affect the jail terms of Lee Rigby's killers.
A panel of five Court of Appeal judges in London will hear bids by two killers to challenge orders against them which mean they must spend the rest of their days behind bars.
The sentencing of the two men who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich has been postponed until after this appeal.
Today's applications are being made by Lee Newell, who murdered child killer Subhan Anwar in prison, and murderer and rapist Matthew Thomas.
The actions will be heard by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with Sir Brian Leveson, Lady Justice Hallett, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Burnett.
In addition, Attorney General Dominic Grieve has referred the case of Ian McLoughlin, who was given a life sentence with a tariff of 40 years for murdering a man on day release.
In that case the judges will be asked to rule on whether the 40 years can be regarded as "unduly lenient" and should be increased.
The central legal issue at the hearing before the judges will be the nature of the sentencing scheme for whole-life orders and the compatibility of such an order with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Government has said that whole-life tariffs are "wholly justified in the most heinous cases".
Such terms were deemed a breach of human rights following a successful appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by murderers Jeremy Bamber, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore.
Last year the trio won a ruling that their whole-life sentences amount to "inhuman and degrading treatment".
Whole-lifers should be entitled to a review of their sentence 25 years into their term at the very latest, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court said.
The ruling by 17 judges from across Europe sparked further outrage among critics of the court - despite reassurances that the decision did not amount to grounds for imminent release.
Newell, 44, is challenging a whole-life sentence imposed last September at Warwick Crown Court.
He was convicted alongside Gary Smith for the February 2013 murder of convicted child killer Anwar in his cell at Long Lartin Prison, Worcestershire. Newell was already serving a life sentence for a previous murder committed in 1988.
Convicted rapist Thomas was told "life means life" after murdering a newly-wed bride and then kidnapping and raping a second woman.
Thomas, then 43, from Luton, pleaded guilty to the murder of Colette Magee in Luton last November. He also admitted two counts of rape, one of indecent assault and one count of kidnap of the second woman.
Triple killer McLoughlin, 55, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last October for stabbing a man on his first day-release from prison after 21 years in custody.
When sentencing McLoughlin, the trial judge imposed a 40-year tariff, saying he could not pass a whole-life term because of the European court ruling.
McLoughlin - who had killed twice before - stabbed Graham Buck, 66, as he came to the aid of a neighbour in Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, last July
There are 49 prisoners serving whole-life terms in England and Wales, including Moors murderer Ian Brady, who tortured and murdered children along with accomplice Myra Hindley, and serial killer Rosemary West.
The appeal judges were expected to deal with a challenge by Mark Bridger, who was convicted of the murder of five-year-old April Jones, but he abandoned his application for permission to appeal against his whole-life tariff.
Bridger kidnapped the child before sexually abusing her, murdering her and disposing of her body.
The former slaughterhouse worker was given the whole-life sentence by trial judge Mr Justice Griffith Williams after he was convicted by a jury at Mold Crown Court.
Bridger, a father of six, snatched April near her home in Machynlleth, Mid Wales, on October 1 2012. Her body has never been found.
The judges are expected to reserve their decision.
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