A European Court decision against a whole-life sentence issued to Peter Moore, who murdered four gay men in 1995, has been criticised by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

Moore is one of three killers who yesterday won an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

The three men are among a group of 49 people in England and Wales who are serving whole-life tariffs.

This means they cannot be released other than at the discretion of the Justice Secretary on compassionate grounds – for example, if they are terminally ill.

Peter Moore, 66, was jailed for life in 1996 for murdering four gay men, Henry Roberts, 56, Edward Carthy, 28, Keith Randles, 49 and Anthony Davies, 40.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights declared that Britain’s whole-life tariffs – handed down to the country’s most notorious serial killers – breached laws governing human rights.

The judges ruled by 16 to 1 that there had to be a possibility of release and review of the sentence in order for it to remain compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he “profoundly disagrees with the Court’s ruling”.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the human rights convention’s authors would be “turning in their graves”.

He told the BBC: “I don’t believe that the people who wrote that convention ever imagined that it would stop a judge saying to a really evil offender – ‘you’ll spend the rest of your life behind bars’.

“It reaffirms, to me, my own determination to bring real changes to our human rights laws and to see a real curtailing of the role of the European Court in this country.”

Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs the public would be “dismayed” by the ruling.

The government cannot appeal against the judgment, which applies in England and Wales, but now has six months to consider its response.