A NOTORIOUS triple killer can legally be held behind bars all his life after a ruling by European judges.
Notorious killers like brutal murderer and rapist Arthur Hutchinson can remain in custody for their whole lives after a ruling yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
It comes after killer Jeremy Bamber and two other convicted murderers lost their appeal that whole-life tariffs condemning prisoners to die in jail amounted to “inhuman or degrading treatment”.
It will mean that a court ruling that Easington-born Hutchinson, who lived in Hartlepool, will die behind bars will be able to remain in place.
Hutchinson, nicknamed The Fox, was jailed in 1984 for butchering wealthy Sheffield solicitor Basil Laitner, his wife Avril, and their son Richard, in a frenzied knife attack that was described during his trial as an “orgy of violence”.
He also repeatedly raped the family’s teenage daughter, Nicola, at knifepoint in an attack which came just hours after they celebrated a family wedding on October 23, 1983. He was arrested in fields near Greatham, a fortnight later.
Hutchinson, now 70, who was convicted of three murders, rape and aggravated burglary in 1984 at Durham Crown Court, was jailed by the trial judge for 18 years, before the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan ruled he should remain in prison for life.
His legal team called for a review of the sentence – but their claims were dismissed by a judge who said there was “no reason at all” to depart from the life tariff set by the Home Secretary.
The latest ruling comes after Bamber’s legal team, which is also representing convicted killers Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter, submitted the application to the ECHR in December 2009.
Under current law, whole-life tariff prisoners will almost certainly never be released from prison as their offences are deemed to be so serious.
They can be freed only by the Justice Secretary, who can give discretion on compassionate grounds when the prisoner is terminally ill or seriously incapacitated.
Bamber, 51, has been behind bars for more than 25 years for shooting his wealthy adopted parents, his sister and her six-year-old twin sons.
Vinter was released from prison after serving nine years for the 1995 murder of a work colleague but three years later he stabbed wife Anne White four times and strangled her, before being given a whole-life order.
Moore was convicted of four counts of murder in 1996 after killing four gay men for sexual gratification.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The Government strongly welcomes this decision.
“We argued vigorously that there are certain prisoners whose crimes are so appalling that they should never become eligible for parole.
“We are pleased that the European court has upheld the whole life tariff as a legitimate sentence in British courts.”