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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 00:27 GMT
Murderer wins right to be father
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
The couple took two appeals to the European Court of Human Rights
The human rights of a murderer and his wife were breached when they were not allowed to have a child by artificial insemination, it has been ruled.

The European Court of Human Rights said the Home Office breached the rights of Kirk Dickson, 35, and his wife Lorraine, who met and married in jail.

Dickson cannot be released before 2009, when his wife, now living in Beverley, East Yorkshire, will be 51.

The couple were awarded 5,000 Euros in damages and 21,000 Euros in costs.

They met via a prison pen-pal network in 1999, four years after Dickson had been sent to Dovergate Prison in Uttoxeter, to serve a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 15 years.

'Significant decision'

The couple's lawyer Elkan Abrahamson said they were "elated" at the decision, even though it had come too late to make a real difference to them as Dickson is now in an open prison and allowed home leave.

But he hailed it "a significant decision for all prisoners" and said he hoped the government would acknowledge it.

The couple lost their first appeal at the European court in April 2006.

But their legal team put their case before the Grand Chamber of the court in Strasbourg again in January, arguing that artificial insemination was the only chance for the couple to have a child of their own.

The couple had first asked for the right to try for a child in October 2001 after Mrs Dickson's release.

'Family life'

Their request was turned down in 2003 by then-Home Secretary David Blunkett.

They turned to the European Court of Human Rights, 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.

At their appeal in 2006, solicitors for the couple said that given Dickson's release date and his wife's age, it was unlikely they would be able to conceive naturally.

They said Mrs Dickson should be given immediate access to artificial insemination facilities.

But, in common with Mr Blunkett in 2003, the judges decided the severity of Dickson's crime and concerns over how any child would be provided for financially, meant permission should be turned down.

Government 'disappointed'

Following the latest appeal a panel of 17 judges agreed the state had obligations to ensure the effective protection of children.

But they went on: "That cannot go so far as to prevent parents who so wish from attempting to conceive a child in circumstances like those of the present case, especially as (Mrs Dickson) was at liberty and could have taken care of any child conceived until such time as her husband was released."

The Ministry of Justice, which took on the prison remit when Home Office responsibilities were divided, said it was "disappointed" by the judgment.

A spokeswoman said: "This judgment departs from those of the Court of Appeal and the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in April 2006.

"We will examine this judgment in detail to determine the extent to which our policy needs to be reviewed."

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