Triple killer Arthur Hutchinson will remain in prison after losing a legal bid for freedom.
Hutchinson has lost a human rights challenge against his whole-life prison term in a ruling that gives UK courts the green light to continue imposing the sentences.
Hutchinson, known as the Fox, had claimed that the punishment amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment as he had no hope of release.
But judges found there had been no violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights concluded that whole-life sentences in the UK can be regarded as compatible with the article, which says no one should be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Easington-born Hutchinson, now aged 75, broke into a home before stabbing to death Basil and Avril Laitner and then knifing their son Richard.
It was thought that Hutchinson’s motive was to commit armed robbery.
The killer went on the run but was later caught on the outskirts of Hartlepool. The judge in his original trial ruled that he should serve a minimum of 18 years, but then-home secretary Leon Brittan later determined he should face the whole-life tariff.
In 2008, Hutchinson had a domestic appeal against whole-life tariffs dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
Then in 2015 the European Court of Human Rights threw out his case, but he applied for it to be passed to the Strasbourg court’s Grand Chamber.
The ruling on Tuesday follows a protracted legal saga over the issue of “life means life” prison terms, under which there is no minimum term and the individual is never considered for release.
In 2013 human rights judges found the power to release a whole life prisoner was unclear in a judgment that raised questions about the sentences.
But in a later ruling on Hutchinson’s case, the ECHR found there had been no violation, saying doubts concerning the release power had been addressed.
And in the latest judgment, the Grand Chamber held by 14 votes to three there had been no breach.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss said: “It is right that those who commit the most heinous crimes spend the rest of their lives behind bars. It is also wholly right that judges are able to hand down whole-life sentences to the very worst offenders in our society.”
There are 63 inmates serving whole-life sentences.