I WASN’T that shocked to see that Isaac Calver, 19, had posted a photograph of himself on social media from behind his prison cell door.

Calver was recently sentenced to a minimum of 21 years imprisonment for the murder of Suffolk teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens, a crime he committed with others.

The prison authorities were quick to take action and the post was removed.

What did surprise me however, was that he posted underneath the photo that he would be “out in 11 years”.

Either he has been given incorrect advice, or more likely, he wasn’t listening properly.

When a person is convicted of murder, they are sentenced to life imprisonment and the judge will set a minimum term.

In Calver’s case, this means he has to serve a minimum of 21 years, before he can make a request for parole.

Being eligible for parole doesn’t mean that the person will get it. It comes down to an assessment of the person’s risk to the community.


  • Isaac Calver

If the prisoner is deemed to remain a risk, parole will be rejected. Much will depend on the reports from doctors and psychiatrists, as well as the prisoner’s attitude towards offending.

If parole is rejected, re-application is not automatic and will be timetabled.

READ MORE: Teenage killer will serve at least 21 years in jail for 'revenge' murder

Contrary to popular belief, the parole board aren’t selected from the electoral roll like jurors.

I know many senior and eminent barristers who have been rejected from the parole board despite their years of expertise.

In serious cases, the board is chaired by a High Court Judge.

Even if parole is granted, there are restrictions: reporting to the Probation Service when required, surrendering of passport, being required to move away.

These are just a few, and wholly proportionate restrictions that can be put in place in appropriate cases.

The requirement to be supervised by probation, following a sentence of life imprisonment, is for life.

Any misbehaviour, even falling short of a crime, can result in the prisoner returning to jail.

As a nation we do have life imprisonment with “whole life tariffs” reserved for the most serious of offenders - Rose West, and Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, being two. Both of these are highly unlikely ever to see the outside of the cell walls again.

Some favour the return of capital punishment.

This will never happen, for the simple reason that no system of justice is infallible, and mistakes can and do happen.

Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged. Many say that had she been tried today she would have been convicted of manslaughter and not murder - owing to the years of abuse she suffered from her partner David Blakeney, which affected her mental state when she killed him.

The well documented case of Sally Challen has similarities to Ruth Ellis’s.

She will be re-tried on the basis that she suffered extreme emotional abuse at the time she killed her husband.

It remains to be seen whether a jury will accept her partial defence of diminished responsibility, which will compute a sentence of murder to manslaughter.

Hopefully, Mr. Calver has now received the message that in fact his 11-year sentence is in fact a minimum of 21.

And that with a life sentence, he will never be fully released from the supervision of the criminal justice system.