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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 16:49 GMT
Prison Service can check Nilsen book
Dennis Nilsen
Nilsen is likely to die in jail
Serial killer Dennis Nilsen has lost the latest legal battle over his planned autobiography.

The High Court said the Prison Service has the right to read - and possibly censor - the manuscript before his solicitors are allowed to return it to him so he can continue working on it.

His barrister Flo Krause argued the home secretary and prison authorities had no powers to vet the manuscript, currently held by his solicitors, before it was handed to him.

To black out or chop up parts would be a disproportionate interference

Flo Krause
For Nilsen
Ms Krause said the authorities would be breaching Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

She argued it would be irrational and a "disproportionate" action breaching his right to respect for family life, home and correspondence.

It would also breach Article 10, protecting freedom of expression, argued Ms Krause.

Rejecting the challenge, Mr Justice Crane ruled that the home secretary was "fully entitled to require that the manuscript be stopped and read".

'Serious work'

Ms Krause said Nilsen, 56, now held at Full Sutton prison, near York, could have had the book published before now, but wanted to do further work on it.

She insisted he was not being underhand in any way.

Nilsen maintains the book, called Nilsen: History of a Drowning Man, is a serious work about his life and imprisonment.

Dennis Nilsen
Nilsen lured young men to his house and killed them
The manuscript, which he started working on in the early 1990s, was taken out by Nilsen's then solicitor in 1996 whilst he was being held at Whitemoor prison.

The prison authorities said it was taken without their knowledge and authority.

In March last year, it was sent back to the prison in a sealed package, but the authorities refused to pass it on to Nilsen unless they could read it to make sure it contained nothing objectionable under prison rules.

It was returned to the solicitors pending the legal challenge.

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

Bizarre rituals

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

After meeting his often homeless 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 and blocking the drains.

As long ago as 1998, the prison authorities intercepted a draft contract sent to him by a potential publisher of the book.

An anthology of poems and tapes of music he recorded in prison were also blocked.

Nilsen's 'right'

His lawyers have always insisted that he neither seeks nor will receive any financial reward from his autobiography. Any proceeds would go to charity, the courts have been told.

Ms Krause said: "To black out or chop up parts would be a disproportionate interference with Mr Nilsen's right to express himself."

Steven Kovats, for the home secretary, said the Home Office knew if Nilsen gave the go-ahead for publication of the manuscript in its present form "it will be very difficult indeed to stop".

The prison authorities wanted to read the manuscript and decide whether Nilsen should have it in its entirety, or whether parts should be blacked out, or the whole thing withheld.

Nilsen, who was legally aided, was refused permission to appeal.

See also:

05 Jan 01 | The Shipman files
Worst of the worst
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