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Europe

British court hands down life sentence for soldier murder

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-26

A British Muslim convert who hacked a soldier to death on a London street was sentenced to life Wednesday, after a court ruled that UK laws on whole-life sentences are compatible with European human rights laws. His accomplice was given 45 years.

The pair were convicted on Dec. 19 of murdering 25-year-old Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was struck by a car and then repeatedly stabbed with knives and a cleaver.

The judge in charge of the trial of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale had delayed announcing his verdict to wait for Britain's Court of Appeal to clarify its position on whole-life sentences.

The verdict follows a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last July that British courts had violated three murderers' rights by jailing them for life with no prospect of release.

Britain's Court of Appeal instructed judges to keep imposing whole-life sentences when appropriate on Tuesday.

"In our judgment, the law of England and Wales ... does provide to an offender 'hope' or the 'possibility' of release in exceptional circumstances," the court said.

There are about 50 people serving whole-life sentences in Britain. Judges can only impose such sentences in exceptionally serious crimes such as child murders involving sadistic or sexual motives, or multiple murders with premeditation.

So-called "lifers" can be released from prison at the discretion of the justice secretary or on compassionate grounds.

Detective Peter Sparks speaks after Rigby verdict

The court dismissed challenges from two convicted murderers, and ordered that one of them, triple killer Ian McLoughlin, have his 40-year sentence increased to life.

"The UK courts have definitively rejected the ludicrous ruling from Strasbourg demanding the most dangerous criminals are given the chance to be freed," said Dominic Raab, a Conservative legislator, in a statement after Tuesday's ruling.

Tough line on crime

The European court's decision in July was one of a series that have angered the ruling Conservatives, who adopt a tough line on crime and see the court based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg as a threat to British sovereignty.

Others have ranged from support for prisoners' voting rights, which Conservatives strongly oppose, to a decision that delayed the deportation to Jordan of radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada for years.

A spokeswoman for the European court declined to comment.

Although the Strasbourg court is not an institution of the European Union, it has become wrapped in a wider debate about how much power EU bodies should have over British affairs.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary or interior minister, has suggested that the Conservatives could pledge that if they win the 2015 election, Britain will pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights which the Strasbourg court enforces.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
 

Date created : 2014-02-26

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