A list of Longest Prison Sentences

List of the Longest Prison Sentences


There have been several instances of people who have served what can only be characterised as extraordinarily lengthy prison sentences, according to the annals of criminal history. One such instance involved Gary Steven Krist, a man with a criminal record, who received a 91-year prison term in the 1970s. Former hitchhiker Krist was accused of murder, robbery, and kidnapping in numerous locations across the US.

Krist’s case serves as a sobering reminder that criminals can be apprehended and punished even if they appear to have a temporary way of life. One of the longest sentences ever given for a single criminal case, his 91-year term acts as a deterrent to those who might be tempted to repeat his actions.

Regardless of one’s personal opinions regarding the length of Krist’s sentence, it is nevertheless a stunning illustration of the ability of the legal system to apprehend even the most evasive of criminals and make sure they pay for their crimes.

The other people on this list with the longest prison terms, like Krist, will serve the majority of their life in prison, making up for the crimes they committed. Justice should serve as a sobering reminder to us all of the value of abiding by the law and the penalties associated with doing so. Whatever your opinion of the sentences, they undoubtedly rank among the heaviest punishments ever imposed by the criminal court system.

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Criminal Cases

Though LegaMart itself is here to guide you and advise you over criminal matters if need be, it is still important for everyone to know the basics of the criminal justice system of the country they reside in. This article highlights the longest prison sentences and how they are ordered by the courts, but the structure of the criminal system is important to know before we move toward prison sentences.

Criminal Procedure

When a crime is committed, the first step is to file a formal complaint with the police. If the offence – for which the complaint was lodged in the station – is cognizable, then the person may be arrested (and should appear before a magistrate within 24 hours), but if the offence is not cognizable, then they may be served a summons after the case is initially presented in front of a magistrate. 

After arrest or service of the summons, the case is formally started if the magistrate believes the prosecution has sufficient grounds to be suspicious of the defendant. Initially, the person accused of the crime is known as the “defendant” or “accused” and is “charged” with a crime; the charges are held within a charge sheet, and each crime must be proven to have been committed by the defendant beyond reasonable suspicion before they are held guilty.

The authority representing the victim is called the Crown Prosecution Service. The magistrate presides over less serious cases, but more serious cases are sent to the Crown Court, which decides the cases. Some cases can also be transferred from the Magistrate Court to the Crown Court after conviction if the deserved sentence exceeds the power granted to the Magistrate Court. A conviction is a formal decision holding the accused responsible for a crime.

A magistrate court has one to three judges presiding over a case, but a Crown Court is presided over by one judge; often, there is a jury in the crown court. When a case proceeds to the Crown Court, on the first day, the case may be adjourned if the accused pleads not guilty. After inquiring about the case details and setting the trial date, the court also instructs the prosecution about how to get the case ready for trial; the prosecution has to conform to and fulfil the requirements of the case; otherwise, the case is considered weak, and charges are dropped.

The burden of proof is always on the prosecution to prove the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable suspicion; if there is even a shred of doubt in the eyes of the court that the defendant might be innocent, the defendant is acquitted, and charges are dropped. 


Suppose the defendant has been proven guilty of an offence; the next step is to sentence the defendant. Sentencing can differ from offence to offence and is held according to the discretion of the judge presiding the case concerning the jurisdiction of his powers to sentence. There are two types of punishments that can be given in the sentencing process: one is a fine, and the other is imprisonment; both may also be given.

The Magistrates’ Court can only sentence a convict for a maximum of 12 months, whereas the Crown Court can sentence for a maximum of 5 years, but the Crown Court also has the power to give an extended sentence. Particularly, only the license element of a sentence can be extended. In contrast, the custodial sentence can be served for a maximum of two-thirds of what is awarded before the convict is released on parole.

Longest Prison Sentences

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Now that we have covered the procedural and substantive aspects of the law, which covers the sentencing guidelines of the criminal justice system, it is time to proceed toward covering the list of the longest prison sentences awarded in history. This list of the longest prison sentences has been curated after much research and covers cases worldwide. Usually, it is thought that the longest prison sentence is a lifetime, but courts can award more than several lifetimes to convicts to keep them behind bars for the safety of the general public.

Chamoy Thipyaso

Starting at the top, Chamoy Thipyaso is considered the person who has held the longest jail term in history. The convict was held responsible for being involved in a pyramid scheme that defrauded thousands of people, including some members of the Thai Royal Household, but she was lucky since the legislature passed a law that deemed the maximum sentence for fraud at 20 years. The sentence awarded to her was a whopping 141,078 years of imprisonment.

Otman El Gnaoui

This criminal was convicted on counts of terrorism with his accomplice in Spain. He was given a 42,924-year prison sentence by the Spanish Court. Otman committed mass murder in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. His accomplice was also given a 42,922-year sentence for murdering 191 people.

John Straffen

The UK’s longest-serving prisoner was John Straffen. The convict had committed the murders of two pre-teen girls in the mid-1900s. He escaped prison as well, which was the time when he committed another murder of a girl. He was convicted again in 1952 for the third murder, after which he served a life sentence before dying in 2007. Archibald Hall’s record of being the oldest prisoner was broken by John Straffen.

Abdulkadir Masharipov

This Uzbek national was given a sentence equivalent to serving not one but 40 life sentences and an additional whopping 1,368 years for committing the massacre at the Istanbul nightclub shooting. Abdulkadir Masharipov’s sentence is fairly recent and was delivered in 2020. Unlike other prison sentences, Abdulkadir’s crime was sentenced recently in the 21st century and set an example for the people to know that multiple life sentences can still be served. This sentencing was held in Turkey.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

Convicted in 1966, Ian Brady was one of the Moors Murderers convicted for the murder of three minors between 1963 and 1965. He then confessed to the murder of two more children in 1986. The convict buried the children in shallow graves, and the body of his victim, Keith Bennett, is still undiscovered. Nonetheless, Ian Brady was considered a danger to society and was exuded from parole, meaning he had to stay in prison till his death. Ian Brady died in May 2017.

Myra Hindley was an accomplice to Ian Brady and was also held guilty of the crimes she committed. It was recommended by her judge that she should serve the whole life tariff. Her sentencing was the subject of a big debate among legal jurists, judges, and Lords, but she continued to serve her sentence till her death in November 2002 at 60.

Why is the longest prison sentence longer than a lifetime?

The main question that comes to mind is why a judge awards a convict more than a lifetime if that is the maximum time they can practically spend in prison. The entire concept behind giving the longest prison sentence is two-fold.

One practical implication is not to let the prisoner be released from prison because, in a normal life sentence, a convict may be released on parole after a few years of imprisonment, but when multiple consecutive sentences are given, it is made sure that the prisoner cannot be released on parole. The other concept is to set an example of exemplary punishment for society to learn from so that potential offenders can mend their ways and be prevented from committing crimes they plan to commit. 


The list of prison terms that are the longest possible serves as a demonstration of the substantial repercussions that result from engaging in criminal activity. The severity of these punishments should act as a deterrent to would-be criminals and as evidence of the commitment of our judicial system to the goals of preserving order and guarding the welfare of our society. It is essential to have a firm grasp of the fact that each instance is distinct and that the individuals who committed the offences in question were punished in accordance with the particulars of those offences.

The duration of these sentences indicates both the seriousness of the offences that were committed and the unwavering dedication of the judicial system to holding individuals accountable for their conduct. These hefty sentences serve as a warning that the law will not tolerate criminal activity and will impose severe consequences on those who choose to break it. The law will not tolerate criminal behavior because it will impose severe repercussions.

LegaMart hopes to cover more topics in the pursuit of providing the general audience with as much information as possible. LegaMart is a legal service for all seeking legal advice. Its legal services are vast and diverse and include, but are not limited to, client conferences, legal FAQs, help, consultations, drafting, etc. It presents to you the list of the longest prison sentences in the world, encompassing the criminal justice systems of various countries.

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