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Indeterminate Sentences Declared Unlawful by Strasbourg Court

James, Wells and Lee v the United Kingdom (application nos. 25119/09, 57715/09 and 57877/09)
The European Court of Human rights has declared that open-ended sentences being served in England and Wales are “arbitrary and unlawful”. Indeterminate sentences were introduced on the basis that rehabilitation would be made available to the prisoners concerned. However, the court found that the three prisoners who brought the case “had no realistic chance” of accessing the rehabilitation courses that they needed to qualify for release. The court awarded up to £6,500 compensation to the three men who had been held up to two years and ten months longer than the recommended minimum sentence imposed by their trial judge. The court held that many prisoners without release dates, particularly those with learning difficulties or mental health issues, would have no realistic chance of attending and passing rehabilitation courses to prove that they could be released back into society.

Prisoners' Rights