This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Law Notes European Human Rights Law Notes

Life Liberty Notes

Updated Life Liberty Notes

European Human Rights Law Notes

European Human Rights Law

Approximately 305 pages

European Human Rights law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge, UK. These notes cover all the major European Human Rights cases and are perfect for anyone doing an LLB , or masters level legal study in the UK. Due to the international element to this subject, these notes will be an excellent supplement for those doing LLBs abroad....

The following is a more accessible plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our European Human Rights Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Life, Liberty and Security: Conceptions of Liberty Deprivation

This is concerned with the human rights of the individual that has already been convicted by a competent court.

  • Thus, since it is post-conviction, not concerned with the legitimacy of the actual conviction.

Residual Liberty:

Must first consider what punishment, in terms of human rights, takes away?

  • Important to note that the legitimacy of punishment, at a philosophical level, is contested.

    • For example, retributive, restorative, deterrence elements.

  • Due to these differing emphases, there is a lack of certainty as to what can be taken away.

  • Liberty is inevitably taken away, but what else?

What human rights cannot be taken away in this context?

  • Lazarus advocates the ‘key distinction’ between personal and residual liberty. This is premised on the concept of divisible liberty.

    • Personal liberty is what is restricted by the imposition of the criminal sanction as a whole;

    • Residual liberty is what is restricted as a consequence of the administration of prisons, as opposed to the imposition of the prison sentence.

      • Paterson: ‘men go to prison as punishment, not for punishment.

    • This is a vital change of emphasis between whether a test of punishment, or a test of imprisonment, is being enforced.

      • Proportionality will then be weighed against vitally different factors.

Explaining the key distinction:

  • Elias LJ in Hirst noted the difference in approach.

    • In Mellor, a clearly personal liberty view was taken, arguing that the court should not just look at the condition of the imprisonment, but the general aggregate understanding of what should be done when punishing.

    • In contrast, in Daly, he noted that the court had adopted a narrower view – ‘where the prisoner retains the right ‘notwithstanding the sentence’ the proportionality doctrine applied in a very ‘different way’’.

First real acknowledgement:

  • Traditionally, prisoners were seen as forfeiting their rights upon imprisonment, being ‘right-less’.

    • This was the first time the UK lost in the ECtHR.

    • In response to a number of prison riots, the UK responded with a number of particularly strict punishments, without the ability to contest the penalties.

  • Golder v UK:

    • Prisoners were in a position where they wanted to test their rights. This concerned the sanctity of correspondence.

    • Held that the ECHR applies to prisoners as it would to people with liberty.

    • Thus, rights must be assessed ‘having regard to the ordinary and reasonable requirements of imprisonment’.

      • These restrictions also had to be: (i) stipulated by law, and (ii) in accordance with the proportionality test.

  • Continued in Dickson v UK:

    • It was made clear that a prisoner did not lose his Convention rights merely because of his detention following conviction; this would not occur to satisfy public opinion.

    • In this case, the court had failed to engage in a proper proportionality test concerning whether artificial insemination could be justified in prison.

    • It was made clear that the margin of appreciation afforded to Member States was reduced when they engaged in the core rights of the individual.

Whole Life Tariffs:

What is the difference between mandatory and discretionary life sentences?

  • Discretionary life sentences are composed of a tariff initially set by the court and a preventative period.

    • This latter preventative period engaged review of the continued sentence by the parole board.

  • However, mandatory life sentences never enter into the second stage, meaning release is not considered.

Due to the role of the Secretary of State in being able to impose further sentences regarding mandatory life sentences, it was held in Stafford v UK that there was no longer a difference between the different life sentences.

  • ‘The continuing role of the Secretary of State in fixing the tariff and in deciding on a prisoner’s release following its expiry, has becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile with the notion of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.’

  • ‘The mandatory life sentence does not impose imprisonment for life as a punishment. The tariff, which reflects the individual circumstances of the offence and the offender, represents the element of punishment.’

The issue of whole life tariffs giving rise to Article 3 claims was discussed in Kafkaris v Cyprus:

  • ‘While the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment on an adult offenders was not per se incompatible with art.3 or any other provision of the Convention, the imposition of an irreducible life sentence on an adult could raise an issue under art.3.’

  • The key issue was whether there was any real (both in de jure and de facto terms) possibility of release.

    • Clear dignitarian issues – a life without a goal or prospects does not appear to hold dignity.

    • However, it was of importance here that the government could end the tariff and had done so in some cases.

The lack of any real prospect of review was again raised in Vinter v UK:

  • ‘A grossly disproportionate sentence could amount to ill-treatment contrary to Article 3 at the moment of its imposition but it would only be on rare occasions that this would be established.’

  • The Court rejected the idea of a whole life tariff without a possibility of release.

    • It is important to distinguish between de jure and de facto prospects of release – the Court did not object to these tariffs being imposed, agreeing that some crimes are so heinous to justify it, but an independent body must assess this continuation (probably after 25 years).

    • ‘An Art.3 issues only arose when it was shown that the applicant’s continued imprisonment was no longer justified on any legitimate penological grounds such as punishment, deterrence, public prosecution or rehabilitation; and the sentence was irreducible de factor and je jure.’

  • Section 30 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997: ‘the Secretary of State may at any time release a life prisoner on license if he is satisfied that exceptional...

Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our European Human Rights Law Notes.