Alan Travis analyses the significance of the latest European court of human rights rulings and what they mean for Britain's relations with Strasbourg
Ken Clarke and Theresa May have been awaiting with a certain degree of anxiety the clutch of high-profile judgments involving the British government issued by the European court of human rights on Tuesday.
The issues involved ? the ability to keep Britain's worst killers behind bars for the rest of their lives, and the deportation of international terror suspects ? had all the potential to take the political row about Strasbourg's influence over the UK to explosive new levels.
In the event, the three rulings ? the last involves an early human rights test for the British-American extradition agreement ? have proved to be less controversial than they might have feared.
Clarke, the justice secretary, will have breathed a sigh of relief that the Strasbourg judges have not given any hope to the likes of the Yorkshire ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, Rose West or Ian Brady that they will not spend the rest of their lives in jail.
He will also be happy that the three judgments form part of a package of more than 75 rulings issued by the human rights court this week and last week as evidence that it is taking the British-led reform drive seriously and trying to tackle its backlog of cases.
But May, the home secretary, will be less happy. The court vindicated her decision to revive Tony Blair's strategy of "deportation with assurances" to deal with the handful of remaining international terror suspects who were first incarcerated under the illegal "Belmarsh regime" in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
But in blocking the deportation of the most high-profile of those remaining terror suspects, Abu Qatada, because the Jordanians refuse to give a specific assurance that he won't face a trial using evidence obtained from torture, the judges have delivered a major setback to May.
There will now be headlines about her having to "set Qatada free" even if bail conditions, which are the equivalent of a new type of control order, are immediately imposed upon him.
But she can continue the efforts to deport the remaining handful of international terror suspects that are under the new form or control order, or still sitting in Long Lartin.
In one sense it is a piece of unfinished business that dates back to Blair's infamous press conference in the Downing Street garden in the immediate aftermath of the July 2005 London bombings when he declared that the "rules of the game had changed". For that reason the decision is less damaging to May.
She can also take some comfort from the third ruling, which gives the go-ahead for two murder suspects to be extradited from Britain to the United States. The judges said America's assurance that the death penalty would not be invoked in their cases should be taken at face value.
It effectively gives a Strasbourg seal of approval to the main principles of the controversial British-American extradition agreement, and in the process represents a blow to Gary McKinnon and others fighting extradition to the US.
Some on the Tory right, such as David Davis, have been strong critics of the extradition agreement, but the ruling is unlikely to fuel the debate over whether or not to quit the court.