Human rights judges have backed the UK Government's refusal to allow a convicted murderer and his wife to have children by artificial insemination.
Kirk and Lorraine Dickson were both in jail when they met through a prison pen pal network and married in 2001.
Mrs Dickson, 48, is now free and living in Hull, but her husband, who is 34, will not be released before 2008.
They had applied for artificial insemination as Mrs Dickson could be too old by the time he was freed.
When the application was rejected in the UK, they turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming a violation of their "right to respect for private and family life" and "right to marry and found a family", both guaranteed by the Human Rights Convention.
But, by a narrow 4-3 majority decision, the human rights judges rejected the case.
The majority verdict said careful consideration had been given to the couple's circumstances, "including the unlikely event of the couple being able to conceive after Mr Dickson's release from prison".
The judgment said the home secretary at the time had concluded that such factors were outweighed by "the nature and gravity of Mr Dickson's crime and the welfare of any child who might be conceived, in the light of the prolonged absence of the father for an important part of its childhood years."
The original rejection had been upheld by the High Court and the Court of Appeal, which had found the decision to refuse the facilities was neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.
Mr and Mrs Dickson now have three months to appeal to a larger, 17-judge Grand Chamber.