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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Court battle over killer's manuscript
Serial killer Dennis Nilsen in 1983
Nilsen believes the refusal to hand over his manuscript is unlawful
Serial killer Dennis Nilsen has begun a High Court battle to try to retrieve his autobiography manuscript from prison authorities.

The partially-completed work was intercepted by staff at Full Sutton Prison, near York, in 2001.

But Nilsen's QC Alison Foster, in court on Friday, accused the home secretary and the prison's governor of breaching her client's human rights by refusing to return it.

The lawyer is arguing that the case has implications for the rights of other prisoners who want to write.

Authorities refused to return the book, entitled Nilsen: History of a Drowning Man, unless they could make sure it contained nothing objectionable under a Prison Service law on prisoner communications.

But Nilsen, who admitted murdering 15 young men claims the rule has been unreasonably applied in his particular case.

Ms Foster told Mr Justice Maurice Kay, sitting in London, that Nilsen's rights to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights were being breached.
We say it is a wider question affecting all prisoners who write about themselves in particular
Alison Foster QC

She said prison authorities accepted they had interfered with these rights, claiming they were entitled to do so.

"They say they are entitled to stop him publishing his manuscript ...We say they are wrong.

"We say it is a wider question affecting all prisoners who write about themselves in particular," she told the judge.

In March 2002 the authorities won the right to read - and potentially censor - the manuscript before Nilsen's solicitors are allowed to return it to him.

Bizarre rituals

Nilsen was jailed for life in 1983 for killing 12 young men at his home in Muswell Hill, north London.

He is believed to have killed more and received six mandatory life sentences with a "whole life" tariff.

After meeting his victims in pubs and bars, Nilsen lured them to his home where he killed them and then carried out bizarre rituals on their bodies.

He was caught after flushing some body parts down the toilet.

Nilsen's book - copies of which are said to be in the hands of several friends and a Sunday newspaper - is the latest in a number of controversial books written by prisoners.

In February 2002 the outcry caused by moors murderer Ian Brady's book "The Gates of Janus" sparked a review of the law governing the rights of criminals to write books.

Members of Brady's victims' families were among those outraged by the book, which is supposed to give an insight into the mind of a serial killer, and for which he gained an estimated 12,000 to 15,000.

Brady book prompts legal review
12 Feb 02  |  England
Archer promotes novel from jail
06 Feb 03  |  England


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