The Supreme Court of England and Wales has struck down the death penalty in the UK, saying the system does not meet the “crucial test” of being humane.
The court found that the death sentences handed down to more than 10 people under the so-called ‘three strikes’ scheme in England and Scotland were disproportionate to the crime.
The law, which was introduced by the former Conservative government in 2013, states that a convicted rapist must serve at least one consecutive term of imprisonment before being eligible for a death sentence.
The ruling by the court of appeal, in which judges have ruled that the legislation is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, means that the sentence of death must be imposed after a three-year sentence has been served.
The ruling came despite the fact that the majority of people convicted under the system were young offenders.
It is not clear what will happen to the death sentence in England, Wales or Scotland.
The Government is expected to appeal against the ruling.
The death penalty is not the only form of punishment that has been struck down in the country.
A judge in the Northern Territory said the death of a teenager who was found guilty of the rape of a 14-year-old girl could no longer be used to justify the death.
A court in Texas, where the death row inmate is being held, struck down a sentence for a man who stabbed a 15-year old girl to death, and another judge overturned a sentence handed down for a 15 year-old who sexually assaulted two 11-year olds.
Read more about British courts: The court ruled that it was “absurd” to consider the death penalties to be cruel and unusual punishment, given the “tremendous” impact they have had on victims.
“The court of justice has ruled that, as in the case of the Texas juvenile, it is ‘absurd’ to consider death as a punishment for a crime which, in reality, is justifiable under the law,” the judges said.
However, the ruling also found that it is not “imperative” to hold the death-penalty system to a higher standard.
In its judgement, the court said that a person must have “reason to fear for their life” and that “a defendant must not be entitled to rely upon the fear of death as the sole reason for his imprisonment”.
“It is therefore important to note that there is no requirement for a defendant to have reason to fear death as an excuse for his conviction, although the courts may, if they so desire, consider such a possibility in sentencing,” it said.
“There is no indication that such a requirement has ever been applied in the history of British legal practice.”