Complaint of life imprisonment without realistic prospect of release
Case of Murray v. the Netherlands (application no. 10511/10)
In the case of Murray v. the Netherlands (application no. 10511/10) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the complaint by a man convicted of murder in 1980, who consecutively served his life sentence on the islands of Curaçao and Aruba (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) – until being granted a pardon in 2014 due to his deteriorating health –, about his life sentence without any realistic prospect of release. The applicant, Mr Murray, notably maintained that he was not provided with a special detention regime for prisoners with psychiatric problems. Although a legal mechanism for reviewing life sentences had been introduced shortly after he lodged his application with the Court, he argued that, de facto, he had no perspective of being released since he had never been provided with any psychiatric treatment and therefore the risk of his reoffending would continue to be considered too high to be eligible for release.
Mr Murray passed away while the case was pending before the Grand Chamber. Two of his relatives subsequently pursued his case before the Court.
The Court came to the conclusion that Mr Murray’s life sentence had not de facto been reducible. It observed that although he had been assessed, prior to being sentenced to life imprisonment, as requiring treatment, he had never been provided with any treatment for his mental condition during the time he was imprisoned. The opinions of the domestic court advising against his release showed that there was a close link between the persistence of the risk of his reoffending on the one hand and the lack of treatment on the other. Consequently, at the time he lodged his application with the Court, any request by him for a pardon was in practice incapable of leading to his release.
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