Kafkaris v Cyprus: ECHR 12 Feb 2008

(Grand Chamber) The claimant said that his rights had been infringed by the mandatory imposition of a life sentence after conviction for murder. Only the President could order the release of such a prisoner, either by exercising the power of mercy under article 53(4) of the Constitution or by ordering release on licence He had been paid to plant a car bomb under car resulting in the death of the driver and his two children.
Held: (Majority) A life sentence was ‘not in itself prohibited by or incompatible with article 3’ but that the imposition of an irreducible life sentence ‘may raise an issue’ under article 3. As to whatwas meant by an irreducible sentence: ‘where national law affords the possibility of review of a life sentence with a view to its commutation, remission, termination or the conditional release of the prisoner, this will be sufficient to satisfy article 3 . . The court has found this is the case . . even when the possibility of parole for prisoners serving a life sentence is limited . . It follows that a life sentence does not become ‘irreducible’ by the mere fact that in practice it may be served in full. It is enough for the purposes of article 3 that a life sentence is de jure and de facto reducible.’ and ‘the existence of a system providing for consideration of the possibility of release is a factor to be taken into account when assessing the compatibility of a particular life sentence with article 3.’ However: ‘it should be observed that a State’s choice of a specific criminal justice system, including sentence review and release arrangements, is in principle outside the scope of the supervision the Court carries out at European level, provided that the system chosen does not contravene the principles set forth in the Convention.’

21906/04, [2008] ECHR 143, 25 BHRC 591, [2010] 1 Prison LR 1, (2009) 49 EHRR 35
European Convention on Human Rights 3 5 7 14
Human Rights
Cited by:
CitedRJM, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 22-Oct-2008
The 1987 Regulations provided additional benefits for disabled persons, but excluded from benefit those who had nowhere to sleep. The claimant said this was irrational. He had been receiving the disability premium to his benefits, but this was . .
CitedBieber (Aka Coleman) v Regina CACD 23-Jul-2008
The Court considered whether a whole life sentence under section 269(4) of the 2003 Act was compatible with Article 3. The defendant had been convicted of murdering a policeman and of attempted murder of two others.
Held: The whole life . .
CitedWellington Regina, (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 10-Dec-2008
It was sought to extradite the defendant to face trial for two alleged murders. He now challenged the order for his extradition saying that his treatment in Missouri would amount to inhuman or degrading punishment in that if convicted he would face . .
CitedBamber, Regina v CACD 14-May-2009
The defendant had been convicted in 1986 of the murder of five members of his adoptive family. The judge had initially recommended a minimum term of 25 years. A later judge had suggested a whole life term. The convictions had been upheld in 2002. . .
See AlsoKafkaris v Cyprus ECHR 2-Dec-2011
Execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights . .
CitedVinter And Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 9-Jul-2013
(Grand Chamber) The three appellants had each been convicted of exceptionally serious murders, and been sentenced to mandatory life sentences, but with provision that they could not be eligible for early release, making them whole life terms. They . .
CitedHaney and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v The Secretary of State for Justice SC 10-Dec-2014
The four claimants, each serving indeterminate prison sentences, said that as they approached the times when thy might apply for parol, they had been given insufficient support and training to meet the requirements for release. The courts below had . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Criminal Sentencing

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.264615