Category Archives: Whole Life Tariff
A man ordered to serve the rest of his life in prison for torturing and murdering his former partner and two-year-old daughter has died.
David Oakes, 50, was jailed last year after Chelmsford Crown Court heard he went to Christine Chambers’s house in Braintree, Essex, where he subjected her to “degrading assaults” before blasting her and their daughter Shania with a shotgun.
Today, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that Oakes had died from natural causes after being taken to hospital.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Frankland prisoner David Robert Oakes died at hospital on Monday.
“He is presumed to have died from natural causes.
“As with all deaths in custody, the Independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
Oakes had denied two counts of murder but was found guilty after nine hours of jury deliberations at his trial in May.
Mr Justice Fulford ordered Oakes to serve a whole life sentence, making him one of a limited group of inmates who would never be released from prison.
Describing Oakes, he said: “A bullying and controlling man, who had frequently inflicted violence on Miss Chambers during the six years of their relationship, he killed his ex-partner and their young daughter simply because he knew she could not bear to be with him and wished to start a new life.”
The trial heard Oakes forced Miss Chambers to cut off her own hair, after arriving at the house with the shotgun, a drill and an axe.
Oakes did not appear in court to be sentenced, after prison guards raised concerns he would harm himself.
In November, the Court of Appeal refused to quash the whole-life order imposed on the killer.
He was one of several inmates who argued such orders were incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.
Judges rejected that argument, saying: “Each of these appellants is dangerous, and on the available evidence, likely to remain dangerous for the indefinite future.”
Ian Flitt, Miss Chambers’ ex-partner and father of her 11-year-old daughter, who escaped the house on the night of the murders, said he hoped Oakes’ death would bring “closure”.
Mr Flitt, who was a friend of Oakes for 45 years and was best man at his wedding, said: “He was my friend once but by the end he was a monster.
“It’s been an ordeal for the whole family so I’m glad it’s come to an end.
“The only people I feel sorry for are his dad and his family. What happened isn’t their fault.
“Some people say he didn’t serve long enough in prison before his death but from my point of view, he was never going to come out, so this is probably best for everyone.”
Oakes shot himself in the face after the 2011 killings and suffered long-term injuries.
It is understood these injuries did not contribute to his death which might have been the result of an illness.
Orders preventing prisoners from ever being released from jail do not breach their human rights, leading judges ruled today.
A specially-constituted panel of Court of Appeal judges made their announcement as they gave decisions in challenges brought by killers and rapists over the imposition of “whole-life” tariffs in their cases.
Giving the ruling, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said the whole-life order “is reserved for the few exceptionally serious offences in which, after reflecting on all the features of aggravation and mitigation, the judge is satisfied that the element of just punishment and retribution requires the imposition of a whole-life order”.
He added: “If that conclusion is justified, the whole-life order is appropriate, but only then. It is not a mandatory or automatic or minimum sentence.”
Although the appeal judges overturned whole-life orders in the cases of a murderer and two rapists, they said the imposition of such orders was not incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment.
Today’s ruling comes a week before an appeal by killer Jeremy Bamber and two other murderers, who will be seeking to overturn their whole-life terms at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Court of Appeal judges, sitting in London, allowed an appeal by hair fetishist Danilo Restivo (above), who murdered and mutilated a mother of two.
An order that blocked his release was replaced with a minimum term of 40 years – the equivalent of an 80-year determinate term.
The court also reduced the whole-life order imposed on “Bermondsey Beast” rapist Michael Roberts to a minimum term of 25 years, equivalent to a 50-year determinate sentence.
And the judges also allowed an appeal by David Martin Simmons, 40, who pleaded guilty to rape and false imprisonment and was sentenced to life in December 2004, replacing his whole-life order with a 10-year minimum.
But the court refused to quash the whole-life order in the case of killer David Oakes, who “sadistically tortured” his former partner before shooting her and their two-year-old daughter.
As well as the whole-life cases, the judges dismissed a challenge by Kiaran Stapleton against the 30-year minimum term imposed when he was jailed for life after he “executed” a stranger in the street.
The men are all still subject to life sentences. Those with a minimum term can apply for parole once that has expired, but they would not be released until they are deemed to no longer pose a threat to the public.
Lord Judge said: “We should perhaps emphasise at the outset that each of these appellants is dangerous and, on the available evidence, likely to remain dangerous for the indefinite future.
“At present it is difficult to see how it will ever become safe for any of them to be released from custody.”
Restivo was given a whole-life tariff in June last year for the “depraved” and “callous” murder and mutilation of neighbour Heather Barnett, 48.
The Italian national, now 40, was found guilty by a jury at Winchester Crown Court of the 2002 murder.
Rapist Roberts, who terrorised elderly women in a London suburb for more than a decade, was jailed in January and told he would live out his days behind bars.
Roberts, now 46, joined a small group of “life means life” prisoners after raping three victims – one aged 83 – and viciously attacking a fourth in Bermondsey, south London.
He evaded justice for 15 years but was captured after a cold case review by Scotland Yard.
Oakes, 51, of Canney Road, Steeple, Essex, was told at Chelmsford Crown Court in May that he will never be released from prison after a jury found him guilty.
He went to Christine Chambers’s house in Braintree where he killed her and daughter Shania with a shotgun.
Stapleton, 21, who labelled himself “Psycho” when he appeared in court, shot Indian student Anuj Bidve, 23, at point-blank range in Salford, Greater Manchester.
Rejecting the appeal in the case of Oakes, Lord Judge said the court agreed with the trial judge that there was “not a shred of mitigation”.
It was a “premeditated double murder, with two intended victims, when there was ample opportunity after the murder of the first for this appellant to allow a moment of compassion for his child to divert him from his plan”.
In the case of Stapleton, the court ruled that there was “no reason to interfere with this sentence”.
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said “It has to be right that in the small minority of cases concerning those who commit the gravest crimes that ‘life’ must mean exactly what it says”
A homeless drifter will die in prison after being convicted of the murders of a vicar in Gloucestershire and a retired teacher in Worcestershire.
Stephen Farrow, 48, was found unanimously guilty of the murder of the Rev John Suddards, 59, and guilty by a majority of 11-1 of the murder of Betty Yates, 77. Both were viciously attacked in their own homes six weeks apart by Farrow. Farrow, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were returned, was told by a judge at Bristol Crown Court that he had committed two “horrific” murders and would never be released.
Mr Justice Field told Farrow, who was surrounded by security guards: “Stephen Farrow, you have been found guilty of two horrific murders. On January 2 this year you somehow got into Betty Yates’s home in the afternoon or early evening. Mrs Yates lived in a remote spot at the banks of the River Severn. She was 77 years old but she led an active life.
“You struck Mrs Yates from behind with a heavy walking stick, hitting her hard at least twice to the back of the head with the rounded, bulbous handle. You hit her with such force that the walking stick splintered. I am quite satisfied on the evidence that has been presented that Mrs Yates fell unconscious, hitting her face on the floor. You then arranged her body and you put a pillow under her head.
“I am quite sure that having done that, you then inflicted the four stab wounds which you inflicted. You left the knife in the fatal wound – the wound that was going to bleed the most profusely.”
The judge continued: “Six weeks later, on February 13, you went to Thornbury, you having been there in the New Year when you broke into the house of Mr and Mrs Pinder who were away on holiday. In their house you made yourself at home and you left with items of jewellery and a radio. You left a note pinned with two knives to the kitchen table which spoke of ‘Christian scum’ and how you ‘hated God’.
“At the vicarage on February 13 Rev Suddards let you in and in his hallway you attacked him with knives. He tried to defend himself by using his hands. On your account to Dr Rogers, when the reverend tried to get back up, you kicked him back to the floor.
“The reverend told you he was dying and you replied ‘f****** die then and hurry up’ and you watched him die as life seeped away over the next three minutes. You then ransacked the vicarage and then placed a number of highly personal items on or around the reverend. I am quite sure you did that to humiliate the reverend and to desecrate his memory. I am quite satisfied you intended to humiliate his family in the course of doing that.”
The judge continued: “The sentence for murder is a mandatory life sentence and in respect of each count I pass a life sentence. I next have to consider whether you should be made the subject of a whole life sentence or whether a minimum term should be set. I am satisfied that in your case a whole life sentence is an appropriate sentence in each of these dreadful, horrific killings.”
The judge also passed a three-year sentence for burglary to run concurrently to the two life sentences. He also praised the families of both Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates for their dignity during the trial.
Killer Jeremy Bamber and two other murderers will have their appeal over keeping them behind bars for the rest of their lives heard by the Grand Chamber of Europe’s human rights court.
The hearing will test whether the UK’s law allowing the most dangerous offenders to be sentenced to whole life tariffs, meaning they will never be released, amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear the case in Strasbourg on November 28, a court spokesman said.
It comes after Europe’s human rights judges ruled in January that Britain’s most dangerous and notorious criminals could be kept behind bars for the rest of their lives.
Condemning people to die in jail was not “grossly disproportionate” and in each case London’s High Court had “decided that an all-life tariff was required, relatively recently and following a fair and detailed consideration”, the judges ruled.
That ruling will now be tested by the court’s Grand Chamber after a panel of five judges granted the appeal by killer Douglas Vinter, who stabbed his wife in February 2008.
Vinter’s appeal means the cases of Bamber, who killed his parents, sister and her two young children in August 1985, and Peter Moore, who killed four gay men for his sexual gratification in 1995, will also be considered by the Grand Chamber judges.
Bamber’s solicitor, Simon McKay, said: “He’s obviously delighted with the decision.
“It demonstrates that his case remains arguable and he looks forward to presenting his position at the Grand Chamber in due course.”
Mr McKay went on: “It is part of his long battle to challenge the home secretary of the day going beyond what the trial judge said would be the appropriate sentence he should receive.
“He’s encouraged by it, but he’s realistic and acknowledges that it’s just another stepping point.
“The final analysis will depend on what the Grand Chamber says in the end.”
The European Court of Human Rights held by four votes to three on January 17 that there had been no violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enshrined in UK law under the Human Rights Act and prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Bamber’s legal team originally submitted the application to the ECHR in December 2009.
But their claims were strongly opposed by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who has said the Government has been “fighting the case vigorously and defending the principle of the whole-life tariff”.
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 has been behind bars for more than 25 years for shooting his wealthy adopted parents June and Neville, his sister Sheila Caffell and her six-year-old twin sons Daniel and Nicholas at their farmhouse in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex.
The 51-year-old was given a whole-life tariff after being convicted of the murders in October 1986.
But he has always protested his innocence and claims his schizophrenic sister Ms Caffell shot her family before turning the gun on herself in a remote Essex farmhouse.
In 2009, Bamber lost a Court of Appeal challenge against the order that he must die behind bars. He has twice lost appeals against conviction.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission reached a provisional decision not to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal last February despite claims by his legal team that they had new evidence that could overturn his conviction.
Vinter was released from prison after serving nine years for the 1995 murder of work colleague Carl Edon, 22. 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 his sexual gratification.
It is the latest case where Europe’s human rights court could try to overrule British judges.
In May, judges at the European Court of Human Rights once again ruled against Britain’s blanket ban on prisoners voting and gave the Government six months to change the law.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the idea of relaxing the ban “makes me physically ill” and officials are working out how to respond to the court’s demand.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said: “There is still something deeply troubling about the Bamber case,it is one of those cases which will not go away and for good reason.
“However the reality is that Jeremy Bamber is saddled with a verdict of guilty to five murders and to be frank if someone who has killed five people doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of their life in prison then I’m really at a loss to know who does.”