Human Rights Laws Allow 31 Convicted Killers to Win Early Release from Prison

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Byline: MARTIN BENTHAM

MORE than 30 convicted killers have won cuts in their jail terms under human rights laws, the Evening Standard reveals today.

Six of the men have already been freed and several more will be eligible for release in the coming months.

The damning revelation - obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - came as John Reid admitted 53 other criminals sentenced to "life" had been freed after serving less than six years.

Opposition MPs today demanded the embattled Home Secretary get a grip on his "incoherent" law and order policies.

The Evening Standard has discovered many killers have had their sentences cut by as much as six years under the Human Rights Act. The reduced sentences, all ordered by the High Court, have been implemented because the minimum time that each of the killers was meant to serve was originally set by the then Home Secretary.

This was ruled to be contrary to human rights laws in a landmark ruling by the law lords which forced the Government to introduce new legislation and paved the way for all those given tariffs by the Home Secretary to appeal.

More than 100 have done so, of whom 31 have so far been successful in winning lower tariffs. Among those whose time has been reduced are a man who killed his girlfriend in a frenzied attack with a baseball bat after a dispute about watching television and another who cut his wife's throat while stabbing her 17 times.

Other killers given lower sentences after appealing to the High Court are a man who murdered his sister's boyfriend by giving him a lethal dose of heroin and then suffocating him, and another who shot dead his ex-girlfriend's parents.

Two men responsible for the murder of India's deputy high commissioner have also won reduced sentences. One was freed, but has now been returned to jail after breaching the terms of his release. The revelation will fuel the controversy about the way serious criminals are punished in the wake of the row over the five-year minimum sentence given to paedophile Craig Sweeney earlier this week.

It will also reignite debate about the impact of human rights legislation on the judicial system following the Prime Minister's admission that the Government's own laws are not working as intended. Mr Reid's authority was dented by the revelation that scores of convicted killers were being released early from jail on licence. In one instance, an offender was allowed back into the community having served less than 15 months.

The trend for early releases comes despite a string of incidents where offenders have committed crimes while on probation. Banker John Monckton was stabbed to death by Damian Hanson who had been freed from prison on parole.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said he was deeply concerned about the coherence of the Government's strategy.

Commenting on the 31 killers who have won reduced terms, he said: "It is a bit rich of John Reid to be lecturing judges about excessively lenient sentences when his own Government's most recent Criminal Justice Act has had the effect of shortening existing sentences. …