Weeks v The United Kingdom: ECHR 2 Mar 1987

The applicant, aged 17, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment in the interests of public safety, being considered by the trial judge on appeal to be dangerous.
Held: ‘The court agrees with the Commission and the applicant that the clearly stated purpose for which [the] sentence was imposed, taken together with the particular facts pertaining to the offence for which he was convicted, places the sentence in a special category.’ In substance, Mr Weeks was being put at the disposal of the state because he needed continued supervision in custody for an unforeseeable length of time and, as a corollary, periodic reassessment in order to ascertain the most appropriate way of dealing with him, and added: ‘The grounds expressly relied on by the sentencing courts for ordering this form of deprivation of liberty against Mr Weeks are by their very nature susceptible of change with the passage of time, whereas the measure will remain in force for the whole of his life. In this, his sentence differs from a life sentence imposed on a person because of the gravity of the offence.’ The Parole Board for England and Wales has the necessary independence to constitute a ‘court’ for the purposes of Article 5(4). In considering whether the prisoner should be released, the Board will consider whether the prisoner remains a danger to the public. The freedom enjoyed by a discretionary life sentence prisoner on licence is ‘more circumscribed in law and more precarious than the freedom enjoyed by the ordinary citizen’ but is, nonetheless, a state of liberty for the purposes of article 5 of the Convention.


Times 05-Mar-1987, 9787/82, (1988) 10 EHRR 293, [2008] ECHR 18, [1987] ECHR 3


Worldlii, Bailii


European Convention on Human Rights 5.4

Cited by:

Reserved fromWeeks v The United Kingdom ECHR 5-Oct-1988
The Court was asked as to the recall to prison of a prisoner who had been released on licence. His recall and subsequent detention were considered by the Board, but under the system then in place it could only make a non-binding recommendation. . .
CitedThynne, Wilson and Gunnell v The United Kingdom ECHR 25-Oct-1990
The applicants, discretionary life prisoners, complained of a violation on the ground that they were not able to have the continued lawfulness of their detention decided by a court at reasonable intervals throughout their imprisonment.
Held: A . .
CitedO’Neill v Her Majesty’s Advocate HCJ 9-Mar-1999
The appellant pleaded guilty to an assault with a knife upon a stranger. He had a previous conviction for assault causing severe injury and permanent disfigurement, and two previous convictions for inter alia attempted murder and assault. He had . .
CitedGiles, Regina (on the Application of) v Parole Board and Another HL 31-Jul-2003
The defendant had been sentenced for offences of violence, but an additional period was imposed to protect the public. He had been refused leave for reconsideration of that part of his sentence after he completed the normal segment of his sentence. . .
CitedRegina v Parole Board ex parte Smith, Regina v Parole Board ex parte West (Conjoined Appeals) HL 27-Jan-2005
Each defendant challenged the way he had been treated on revocation of his parole licence, saying he should have been given the opportunity to make oral representations.
Held: The prisoners’ appeals were allowed.
Lord Bingham stated: . .
CitedGreenfield, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Feb-2005
The appellant had been charged with and disciplined for a prison offence. He was refused legal assistance at his hearing, and it was accepted that the proceedings involved the determination of a criminal charge within the meaning of article 6 of the . .
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: . .
CitedStafford v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-May-2002
Grand Chamber – The appellant claimed damages for being held in prison beyond the term of his sentence. Having been released on licence from a life sentence for murder, he was re-sentenced for a cheque fraud. He was not released after the end of the . .
CitedHirst v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 6-Jul-2006
The prisoner had been released on licence but then recalled. He complained that the procedure infringed his human rights. He had been convicted of manslaughter, and was seen to be a long term danger. The court awarded him compensation saying that . .
CitedSecretary of State for Justice v Walker; Same v James CA 1-Feb-2008
The claimant had been sentenced to a short period of imprisonment but with an indeterminate term until he demonstrated that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public. He complained that the term having expired, no opportunity had . .
CitedBrooke and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v The Parole Board and Another CA 1-Feb-2008
The claimant prisoner complained that the Parole Board was insufficiently independent of government to provide a fair hearing. The court at first instance had found that the relationship between the Parole Board and the sponsoring Department put the . .
CitedBlack, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice HL 21-Jan-2009
The appellant complained that the system for considering the release of a life prisoner did not comply with the Convention when the decision was made by the Secretary of State and not by the Parole Board, or the court. The Board had recommended his . .
CitedWhiston, Regina (on The Application of) SC 2-Jul-2014
The claimant, having been released from prison on licence, objected to the procedure whereby his licence was revoked with no means for him to challenge that decision.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. Article 5(4) did not apply to the particular . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Criminal Practice, Prisons

Updated: 04 June 2022; Ref: scu.164979