Whole-life jail terms without the possibility of review amount to a breach of human rights, European judges have ruled.
Murderer Jeremy Bamber and two other killers, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore, have won an appeal in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights that their sentences amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.
The court found that for a life sentence to remain compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights there had to be both a possibility of release and a possibility of review.
However, the panel of 17 judges added: "In finding a violation in this case, however, the court did not intend to give the applicants any prospect of imminent release."
The appeal was brought by Vinter, who stabbed his wife in February 2008, and means the cases of Bamber, who killed his parents, sister and her two young children in August 1985, and Peter Moore, who killed four gay men for his sexual gratification in 1995, will also be considered.
In their ruling, the judges said it was up to the national authorities to decide when such a review should take place, however, existing legal comparisons gave support to guaranteeing a review no later than 25 years after the imposition of a life sentence.
Under current UK law, whole-life tariff prisoners will almost certainly never be released from prison as their offences are deemed to be so serious.
They can be freed only by the Justice Secretary, who can give discretion on compassionate grounds when the prisoner is terminally ill or seriously incapacitated.