Triple killer who struck in Sheffield makes another bid for freedom from prison

Arthur Hutchinson
Arthur Hutchinson
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A triple killer is making a bid for freedom from behind bars - by claiming his whole-life prison sentence breaches his human rights.

Arthur Hutchinson, aged 74, was jailed in 1984 for stabbing Basil and Avril Laitner to death after breaking into the couple’s home in Dore, Sheffield and then killing one of their sons.

He struck on the night of Mr and Mrs Laitner’s daughter’s wedding and raped a guest.

His case is to be reconsidered by top judges after it was referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

Earlier this year a judgment from the Strasbourg court ruled that there had been no violation, but Hutchinson applied for the case to be passed to the ECHR’s Grand Chamber.

It has now emerged that his request has been accepted.

After an original Chamber judgment has been delivered, parties are able to ask for a referral to the Grand Chamber for fresh consideration.

Requests are accepted on ‘an exceptional basis’.

No details of the reason for referring Hutchinson’s case have been released.

The move will bring fresh scrutiny of the protracted issue of ‘life means life’ terms.

The judge in Hutchinson’s original trial ruled that he should serve 18 years behind bars but then-home secretary Leon Brittan later determined he should face the whole-life tariff.

In 2008, Hutchinson had a domestic appeal against whole-life tariffs kicked out by the Court of Appeal.

He was the first Briton to challenge the sentence after a controversial ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in July 2013 that whole-life tariffs breach human rights.

The Strasbourg-based court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights - which relates to inhuman and degrading treatment - on the basis that whole-life orders were not ‘reducible’.

In that decision judges did not say whole-life sentences were incompatible with the convention, but that there had to be the possibility of a review at some stage and that current laws allowing for release in exceptional circumstances were unclear.

Relying on Article 3, Hutchinson claims that his whole life sentence amounts to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ as he has no hope of release.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are clear that those who commit the most heinous crimes should face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives behind bars.”