Regina v Lichniak: HL 25 Nov 2002

The appellants challenged the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment imposed on them on their convictions for murder. They said it was an infringement of their Human Rights, being arbitrary and disproportionate.
Held: The case followed on where the Anderson case left off. In these cases the judge had noted that he did not think the defendants were a risk to the public, and, if given a discretion, a life sentence might not have been imposed. It was argued that the sentences therefore did not serve a valid penological purpose. The House could only consider whether the sentence was lawful. It was. The sentence reflected the settled will of Parliament.
The complaints were not of sufficient gravity to engage the Convention rights asserted. In a balance between the interests of an individual and society, it was wrong to give too much weight to the interests of someone who had committed murder, where there might be any doubt as to their fitness for release. The V case had not suggested any such incompatibility The tariff imposed properly reflected the view taken by the judge who heard the matter.
The appellant’s complaints were not of sufficient gravity to engage Article 3 of the Convention and secondly, that the life sentence was not arbitrary or otherwise contrary to Article 5-1 of the Convention. Lord Bingham said: ‘If the House had concluded that on imposition of a mandatory life sentence for murder the convicted murderer forfeited his liberty to the state for the rest of his days, to remain in custody until (if ever) the Home Secretary concluded that the public interest would be better served by his release than by his continued detention, I would have little doubt that such a sentence would be found to violate Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights . . as being arbitrary and disproportionate.’


Bingham of Cornhill, Nicholls of Birkenhead, Hobhouse of Woodborough, Scott of Foscote, Rodger of Earlsferry, LL


Times 26-Nov-2002, Gazette 06-Feb-2003, [2002] UKHL 47, [2003] 1 AC 903, [2003] HRLR 8, [2003] 1 Cr App R 33, 13 BHRC 437, [2002] 4 All ER 1122, [2003] UKHRR 62, [2002] 3 WLR 1834


HL, Bailii


Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 1(1), European Convention on Human Rights 3 5-1


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department Ex parte Anderson HL 25-Nov-2002
The appellant had been convicted of double murder. The judge imposed a mandatory life sentence with a minimum recommended term. The Home Secretary had later increased the minimum term under the 1997 Act. The appellant challenged that increase.
CitedV v The United Kingdom; T v The United Kingdom ECHR 16-Dec-1999
The claimant challenged to the power of the Secretary of State to set a tariff where the sentence was imposed pursuant to section 53(1). The setting of the tariff was found to be a sentencing exercise which failed to comply with Article 6(1) of the . .
Appeal fromRegina v Lichniak; Regina v Pyrah CACD 2-May-2001
The claimants sought by judicial review to challenge their separate sentences to life imprisonment for murder, saying that section 1 of the 1965 Act was incompatible wth their rights under articles 3 and 5 of the Convention. They argued that all . .

Cited by:

CitedRegina (on the Application of Cawser) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 5-Nov-2003
The claimant was serving a prison sentence for serious sexual offences. He would not be released until he had completed a sex offenders programme, but one was not made available, delaying his release.
Held: ‘The Secretary of State is not under . .
CitedMcClean, Re HL 7-Jul-2005
The appellant was serving a life sentence for terrorist offences. He complained that he should have been released under the 1998 Act. It was said he would be a danger to the public if released. On pre-release home leave he was involved in a . .
CitedRoberts v Parole Board HL 7-Jul-2005
Balancing Rights of Prisoner and Society
The appellant had been convicted of the murder of three police officers in 1966. His tariff of thirty years had now long expired. He complained that material put before the Parole Board reviewing has case had not been disclosed to him.
Held: . .
CitedA and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No 2) HL 8-Dec-2005
Evidence from 3rd Party Torture Inadmissible
The applicants had been detained following the issue of certificates issued by the respondent that they posed a terrorist threat. They challenged the decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission saying that evidence underlying the . .
CitedAN, Regina (on the Application of) v Mental Health Review Tribunal (Northern Region) and others CA 21-Dec-2005
The appellant was detained under section 37 of the 1983 Act as a mental patient with a restriction under section 41. He sought his release.
Held: The standard of proof in such applications remained the balance of probabilities, but that . .
CitedO v Crown Court at Harrow HL 26-Jul-2006
The claimant said that his continued detention after the custody time limits had expired was an infringement of his human rights. He faced continued detention having been refused bail because of his arrest on a grave charge, having a previous . .
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 . .
CitedLumba (WL) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 23-Mar-2011
The claimants had been detained under the 1971 Act, after completing sentences of imprisonment pending their return to their home countries under deportations recommended by the judges at trial, or chosen by the respondent. They challenged as . .
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 . .
CitedSturnham, Regina (on The Application of) v The Parole Board of England and Wales and Another (No 2) SC 3-Jul-2013
From 4 April 2005 until 3 December 2012, English law provided for the imposition of sentences of imprisonment for public protection (‘IPP’). The Court addressed the practical and legal issues resulting from the new system.
Held: The decision . .
CitedThe Government of Ghana v Gambrah and Another Admn 16-May-2014
Ghana appealed from refusal of extradition of the respondent to face a charge of murder. The only sentence for murder in Ghana was death, but the government had undertaken not to impose that sentence. The district judge accepted the undertaking, but . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Criminal Sentencing

Leading Case

Updated: 24 October 2022; Ref: scu.178248