Life Imprisonment in the United Kingdom Life Essay

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Life Imprisonment in the United Kingdom

Life imprisonment is the most severe punishment in relation to critical or serious criminal activities in countries that do not have death penalty. Life imprisonment in the United Kingdom falls under two categories with unique meanings depending on the severity of the criminal activity: life imprisonment and whole-life sentence. In this research, the focus will be on the examination of the essence of life imprisonment in the United Kingdom. The exercise will also focus on the evaluation of the view of the European Court of Human Rights on the concept of life imprisonment.

Life imprisonment is the most severe punishment in relation to critical or serious criminal activities in countries that do not have death penalty. There is a variation on the types of offences that are eligible for the imposition of life imprisonment (Gibson et al., p. 38). Most nations are showing trends of moving out of the death penalties thus adoption and implementation of life imprisonment to handle severe criminal activities. In the context of the United Kingdom, there was an increase in the cases of life imprisonment by 75% between 2004 and 1994. United Kingdom has the most number of life sentence prisoners than any country in Europe. It is essential to note that life has a different meaning in the judicial structure of the United Kingdom. This indicates that judges have the obligation and authority to determine the minimum term with reference to the severity of the crime before the law courts. Most minimum terms of the life sentence in the United Kingdom ranges between 15 and 17 years before the opportunity for the first parole hearing (Appleton p. 106) .


Views on life imprisonment in the United Kingdom

Life imprisonment in the United Kingdom falls under two categories with unique meanings depending on the severity of the criminal activity. The first category is the aspect of the life imprisonment. Life imprisonment focuses on the completion of the terms under the influence and decision of the judge in the determination of the tariffs. Such sentences focus on the completion of terms ranging between 15 and 17 years. The second category is the whole-life sentence. This is often applicable in the case of multiple severe criminal activities such as serial murder. Under this sentence, it is essential to complete one's life term within the context of the prison. Prisoners are locked until they die in case of whole-life sentence or imprisonment.

According to a recent ruling by the judges of the United Kingdom, whole-life sentence does not infringe article (3) of the human rights. This view relates to the case of Vinter & Others v. The United Kingdom (application numbers 66069/09, 130/10, and 3896/10). According to the ruling by the European convention on human rights, there was a unanimous decision on lack of violation of the article (3). Article (3) of the human rights focuses on the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment. The main objective of the court was to offer a ruling on the essence of the complaints by the three applicants in relation to their conditions on the whole-life sentences as a breach to the human rights (Emerson et al., p. 29).

The applicants argued in the case that they had no hope of release thus had to contend with the mental torture serving the life imprisonment term. Following the ruling on the case of the three applicants, the individuals are now serving mandatory sentences of life imprisonment for the criminal cases of murder. Life imprisonment or sentence demonstrates diverse views: some argue for the implementation of the mode of punishment while others call for the abolition of the life sentence. These diverse groups provide their views in relation to the strengths and weaknesses of the life sentences especially in the context of the United Kingdom.

Advantages/strengths of life imprisonment

It is essential to focus on the aspect of cost in determination of the administration of death penalty or life-imprisonment. The cost of implementation of a life imprisonment is lower than the cost of administration of death penalty by a factor of 2 to 5, in other cases it is even close to ten factors. This is because of the inclusion of endless appeals, procedures such as DNA testing, and other issues that focus in dragging the case for years or decades before conclusion. Death penalties are also expensive in relation to time and effort consumption in comparison to life imprisonment. This makes it a better option for the United Kingdom's legal structure to focus on the administration of the life imprisonment rather than death penalty (Ashworth p. 57).

It is vital for the organization to learn to focus on other punishment measures rather than implementation of the concept of an eye for an eye. According to the illustration by Mahatma Gandhi, an eye for an eye concept makes the world blind thus inability to focus on the adoption of other effective measures for handling criminal activities. Death penalty is not the best solution for murder because it offers an express approach for the criminals to evade equal punishment. It is essential for the legal system to make sure criminals suffer for their murder actions thus the concept of life imprisonment. Death penalty on the other hand focuses on the promotion of violence actions within the society.

It is vital for the law courts to take into account the nature of the criminal activity before passing judgement. Life imprisonment is administered in the context of murder charges in the United Kingdom. This offers the opportunity for the individuals who commit such crimes to adhere to the demands of the law.

Life imprisonment has the capacity to be harsh like the case of death penalty or even harsher than the latter, but reflects a form of justice in comparison to other forms of punishments. It is the duty of the law courts to determine an effective and appropriate punishment for the severe criminal activities such as murder and rape. This enables the adoption and implementation of life imprisonment to address justice to the relatives and the victims in relation to the criminal activity (Conte p. 96).

Disadvantages/weaknesses of life imprisonment

Despite the fact that most approaches of incarceration focus on the rehabilitation of the criminals to the effective degree that enables them to re-enter into the society, whole-life/life imprisonment without parole is a reflection of alternative or punitive option to death penalty. Just like death penalty demonstrates ethical concerns, life imprisonment/whole-life sentence illustrates negative influences on the growth and development of individuals especially in the United Kingdom.

Psychological torture

The context of is an alteration of life activities and experiences to all prisoners. This is because of the harsh, dangerous, atypical patterns of thinking, and behaviour characteristics thus putting prisoners in danger. Some of the normal psychological responses in relation to deprivation of privacy and freedom include dependency on the structures, isolation, low self-esteem, suspicion, and hyper-vigilance. These are a reflection of torture to the prisoners thus affecting their growth and development as human beings.

Social withdrawal

Prisoners adopt and integrate unique attributes to adapt to the prison life. In the process of adapting to the new environment, some prisoners might develop depression symptoms. Life sentence proves to be a withdrawal from the normal encounters or social interactions to the prisoners thus adaptation to survive in the prison for the rest of their lives. Social withdrawal requires an essential attention because of the negative outcome such as isolation or psychological detraction (Cullen et al., p. 183).

Physical & Emotional torture

All prisons in the United Kingdom take physical and emotional toll on the prisoners or inmates thus breaching article (3) of the human rights in accordance with the European court of human rights. Life sentence also deprives inmates of conjugal rights thus transformation of the social life or interaction. Extreme torture with reference to physical and emotional tormenting of the inmates usually leads to loss of lives of the prisoners and deterioration of health conditions.


Life sentence is one of the factors that increase the level of hostility among the inmates under the influence of the loss of autonomy. Inmates react to the routine which reflects lack of autonomy thus an indication of frustration on the helpless state of childhood. The overall outcome of this frustration is the open hostility among the inmates.

What the European Court of Human Rights thinks about life imprisonment

Based on the rejection of the case of Vinter & Others v. The United Kingdom (application numbers 66069/09, 130/10, and 3896/10), it is essential to note that the European Court of Human Rights believes that whole-life imprisonment is not a violation of article (3). Article three of the European Convention on Human rights focuses on the prohibition of torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to the citizens of the member states. Some view life imprisonment as a violation of the article 3 of the convention of human rights. The European Convention on…[continue]

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