News / General

That A Child May Be Born

By SLAS Spokesperson


There was a nice Christmas touch in the decision by the European Court of Human Rights when it decided that it was in contravention of human rights of the United Kingdom Authorities to prevent the conception of a child by a life-term prisoner and his wife through artificial insemination.  In Dickson & Other –v- United Kingdom (application number 44362/04) published at 21st December 2007, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights reversed the decision of a Chamber judgement and found that a fair balance had not been struck between the competing public interests in the effective application of imprisonment on the one hand and the private interests in the the prisoner’s right to private and family life as guaranteed by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on the other.  The case raised no separate issue under article 12 which protects the right to found a family.  Kirk Dickson had been convicted of murder in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of 15 years and, in 1999 he met, via a prison pen pal network and, subsequently, in 2001, married, Lorraine Dickson.  The couple requested artificial insemination facilities to enable them to have a child together, because it would not otherwise be possible given Mr Dickson’s earliest release date and Mrs Dickson’s age.  This application was refused, leading ultimately to the present proceedings in which the court awarded the applicants, jointly, 5,000 euros in respect of non pecuniary damage and 21,000 euros, less 2,148 euros in legal aid paid by the counsel of Europe, for costs and expenses. Alas, we shall never know what good or ill might have been brought to mankind by the child whose entry to life was excluded by the UK's refusal to allow the couple to bring forth that child. 


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