Landmark Court of Appeal ruling paves the way for whole life sentences to be given to the murderers of soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby

In July 2013 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that whole life terms, whilst justified, must have some mechanism for review after 25 years. The Court further ruled that England and Wales provided no such mechanism and whole life sentences therefore breached a criminal’s human rights.


The Court of Appeal looked at the issue yesterday, with several high profile sentences stayed pending the judgment. The Court found that sentencing laws in England and Wales were compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights as an offender could appeal to the Secretary of State for review in exceptional circumstances. Therefore criminals have ‘hope’ and the ‘possibility’ of release. The landmark ruling has now paved the way for judges to make whole life sentences with confidence.


Two high profile sentences that were stayed pending the judgment included those of Adebolajo and Adebowale, the brutal killers responsible for the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, of 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers on 22nd May 2013. The incident was a shocking and tragic loss of one of our brave soldiers serving in the Armed Forces. My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends.

Adebolajo and Adebowale were found guilty of the murder in December 2013 and following the Court of Appeal’s ruling yesterday, will be sentenced on 26th February 2014 at the Old Bailey. The postponement of their sentencing is perhaps indicative of whole life sentences for their heinous act.


In the words of Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary, “courts should be able to send the most brutal murderers to jail for the rest of their lives”.

 by Hannah Ashcroft, Trainee Solicitor at Hilary Meredith Solicitors