In its landmark 2013 judgment of Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights held that a life sentence which is not de jure and de facto reducible amounts to a breach of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading punishment, as enshrined in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The author, a judge of the Strasbourg Court, analyses the Vinter judgment both as it stands alone as well as how it fits into and, now, influences the Court’s case-law on Article 3 and 5 of the Convention, before reviewing the procedural requirements laid down by the Court for a ‘Vinter review’ of life sentences. In doing so, the author examines the underlying tensions between the conception of penal policy as falling within the exclusive domain of domestic decision-making and the individualistic and dignitarian notion of human rights in which the Convention system is firmly grounded. The article is based on the 2016 Bergen Lecture on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice which the author gave on 26 October 2016 at the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen.
Copyright (c) 2017 Robert Spano
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