Whole Life Orders in Hutchinson v UK: A Counter-Revolution, or Evolution to Vinter?

Authors: Daron Tan - Published date: 29-10-2017 - Status: Published

Following Vinter v United Kingdom [2014], whole life orders without a sufficiently clear review mechanism at the outset of sentencing were incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Hutchinson v United Kingdom [2017] judgment raised academic trepidation that this requirement had been removed. This article focuses on how Hutchinson relates to the specific requirements for whole life orders, in Vinter, and whether legal consistency is present between the two judgments. It will do so by highlighting how the substantive issue of whether a review mechanism exists is distinct from the procedural issue of whether this review mechanism is clear and certain. In the latter, a margin of appreciation is necessary to find the appropriate balance between the procedural autonomy of Member States, and the secondary role of the European Court of Human Rights as a supervisor to the domestic authorities and courts. This article will also address the factual question of whether the Grand Chamber in Hutchinson had omitted the issue of whether the applicant was aware at the outset of his sentencing of a review mechanism, even if this still falls short of causing a counter-revolution of legal principles.

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