Technical lifer status
"Technical lifer" status could be given to lifers who had been transferred to hospital, whose sentence ought properly to have been a hospital order rather than a life sentence.
Technical lifers remain (under statute) detained under s47/49 but are (as a matter of policy) treated as if detained under s37/41. The patients are discharged as mental health patients; the Parole Board does not consider their cases and they are not released under life licence.
The Tribunal does not have power to discharge technical lifers (under statute) but (as a matter of policy) the Ministry of Justice always agrees to discharge following the Tribunal's recommendation under s74. It was this distinction (i.e. the Tribunal not having the power to discharge) which led to the ECtHR in Benjamin and Wilson 28212/95  ECHR 636 holding that technical lifer status breached the Convention.
The government subsequently decided to stop making patients subject to technical lifer status (which had been favourable to patients) rather than making the system ECHR-compatible by giving the Tribunal the power to discharge. Existing technical lifers are still subject to the old incompatible scheme.
Now, the patient must appeal against sentence to the Court of Appeal (via the CCRC if necessary).
Written ministerial statement
From 2 April 2005, life sentence prisoners who have been transferred to psychiatric hospital for treatment will no longer be considered for technical lifer status. All life sentence prisoners will have their future release determined by the Parole Board and be subject to life licence on release. This decision has been taken in light of the judgment in the case of Benjamin and Wilson v the United Kingdom, which found that technical lifer policy was in breach of article 5(4) of the European convention on human rights. This will not affect those who have already been granted technical lifer status, or the consideration of any pending applications. No new applications, however, will be considered after 2 April 2005.