Murderers and those convicted of other serious offences could be given sentences lasting hundreds of years to sidestep European regulations that ban whole-life terms, it is reported.

Ministers are considering introducing the lengthy sentences to get around a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the Daily Telegraph said.

The court last year declared that whole-life tariffs, which can be imposed by English judges, were a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because they allowed for no "right to review".

Allowing judges to sentence criminals for hundreds of years is one of the options the government is considering to overcome the human rights ban.

Sentences of extreme length would effectively amount to the same as a whole-life term, but would still allow for prisoners to have their sentence reviewed and potentially reduced.

A government source told the Telegraph: "The European Court of Human Rights seems to be making decisions a million miles away from what the vast majority of the public think.

"They don't want any possibility of the most horrible of criminals walking the streets again, and this plan could be a way to make sure that doesn't happen."

There are 49 prisoners serving whole-life terms in England and Wales. One killer, Ian McLoughlin, who was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years for murdering a man while on day release from another murder sentence in July, avoided a whole-life term because of the ECHR ruling, the Telegraph said.