On 9th July, the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber will give judgment in Vinter and others v United Kingdom. The applicants, Douglas Gary Vinter, Jeremy Neville Bamber and Peter Howard Moore, are British nationals who were born in 1969, 1961 and 1946 respectively. All three men are currently serving sentences of life imprisonment for murder. When convicted the applicants were given whole life orders, meaning they cannot be released other than at the discretion of the Secretary of State on compassionate grounds (for example, if they are terminally ill or seriously incapacitated).
Webcast of the hearing
Previous posts are Whole Life Terms for Murder - Vinter and others v UK 28th November 2012 and Whole Life Terms for Murder 16th May 2013.
The court will rule
on the point as to whether there should be a review in relation to whole life terms. To introduce reviews would require a change to English law by either re-introducing such a review after a stipulated period or by requiring a review in all cases as is the position in Scotland. The reviews could be conducted by the Parole Board. Even if reviews of whole life terms were introduced, one suspects that few such prisoners would secure release but it would be a possibility. It may be that the court will favour a requirement to hold reviews.
This will not be the first time that a different approach in Scotland to that in England and Wales stands out - see S and Marper v UK (note paras 36 and 109).
The case of Hassan v. the United Kingdom is to be heard in the Grand Chamber on 11th December 2013. The applicant, a former high-ranking member of the Ba’ath party, claims that his brother was arrested by the British armed forces shortly after the Iraq invasion, then held by coalition forces at Camp Bucca. His brother’s body, with 8 bullet wounds and signs of ill-treatment, was found to the north of Baghdad.
European Courts blog:
Here is a further roundup of European Court of Human Rights activity.
The Supreme Court of the UK has handed down two judgments.
Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited (Respondent) v Zodiac Seats UK Limited (formerly known as Contour Aerospace Limited) (Appellant)
article on the case
R (on the application of Sturnham) (Appellant) v The Parole Board of England and Wales and another (Respondents) (No. 2)
Court of Appeal:
In the Civil Division - see the interesting case of Malik v Fassenfelt  EWCA Civ 798 where judgment is given by Sir Alan Ward. 'The idea that an Englishman's home is his castle is firmly embedded in English folklore and it finds its counterpart in the common law of the realm which provides a remedy to enable the owner of the castle to secure the eviction of trespassers from it. But what if the invaders occupy for long enough to establish their home within the keep? Whose castle is it now? Whose home must the law now protect?'
The case is also of interest because of Sir Alan's comments about the 'great triumph' of oral advocacy (para 40):
'....... What I do want to emphasise is that this case demonstrates one aspect of our way of doing things which does represent the very best of British. That is our procedure for extended oral advocacy in our courts, especially in the appellate courts. Here we had Mr Luba QC, a true expert in the field, marshalling his written and his oral submissions in his usual measured and compellingly persuasive way. He has commanded my admiration over the many years I have been listening to him. Miss Winston is less well known to me. She had a rather torrid time when subject to a penetrating but ever-courteous Socratic inquisition from my Lord, Lloyd LJ, deploying a typical and invaluable judicial technique to tease out the issues and the arguments. She recovered and advanced her case with determination. The result was, as often happens, that the oral argument swayed the Court this way and that. That is the great triumph of oral advocacy and if it gives us more to ponder it eventually makes our task easier.....'
In the Criminal Division see the case concerning life imprisonment - Saunders and Edwards v R  EWCA Crim 1027. Three appeals against sentence where a non mandatory sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. They were listed for hearing at the same time. Some of the grounds of appeal related to the correct approach to non mandatory sentences of life imprisonment following the changes to the dangerous offender provisions: see Chapter 5 of Part 12 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, as amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, effected by ss.122-124 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 ("LASPO").
Lord Chief Justice:
Lord Judge, who is to retire later this year, delivered a speech at London's Mansion House. 'My Lord Mayor, it is exactly 50 years since I was called to the Bar and in October it will be 25 years since I was appointed a High Court Judge. These years have taught me that we have the priceless advantage of living in a country which respects the rule of law, and I believe equally respects its concomitant, the independence of the Judiciary. I suspect that none of us can articulate it in quite the same way as John Locke, “where law ends, tyranny begins”, but, .......'
Coroners Courts Reform:
See the Ministry of Justice response to their consultation on Part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.