COURT of Appeal judges have allayed fears that quadruple killer Mark Hobson might one day walk free by dismissing another murderer’s bid to end his “life means life” sentence.
But the European Court of Human Rights may yet rule against life sentences that do not include the chance of parole, known as whole life sentences.
Hobson, who killed twin sisters Claire and Diane Sanderson of Camblesforth near Selby and Strensall pensioners Joan and James Britton in 2005, was told he must spend the rest of his life behind bars.
He thus became one of a small group of killers with whole life sentences. This also includes David Oakes, who shot his former partner and their two-year-old daughter in Braintree, Essex in June 2011, and Jeremy Bamber, who killed his adoptive parents, sister and her two children in 1985, also in Essex.
Oakes went to the Court of Appeal in London claiming that a “life means life” sentence was illegal. However five judges ruled it was legal, though they stressed it should only be passed in certain circumstances.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, giving judgement, said the whole-life order “is reserved for the few exceptionally serious offences in which, after reflecting on all the features of aggravation and mitigation, the judge is satisfied that the element of just punishment and retribution requires the imposition of a whole-life order”. He said: “If that conclusion is justified, the whole-life order is appropriate, but only then. It is not a mandatory or automatic or minimum sentence.”
Bamber will hear later this month whether his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights’ Star Chamber has succeeded.
He and other murderers claim that denying them the possibility of release was inhumane and degrading punishment, grossly disproportionate to their crimes and therefore a breach of their human rights.
The appeals, and the possibility that they might eventually result in the possibility of Hobson being released, met with general disapproval in North Yorkshire earlier this month.