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European court denies UK prisoner's IVF request

24 April 2006
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 355

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that a British man who is serving a life sentence in prison for murder does not have the right to be allowed access to IVF treatment. Thirty-four year old Kirk Dickson alleged that the UK Government had breached his right to found a family under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights by denying access to the treatment, as well as his right to family life under Article 8.

Mr Dickson was found guilty of murder in 1994 and given a life sentence, with a minimum 15-year tariff. This means that the earliest he could be released from prison is in 2009, when he will be 37. His wife, whom he met via a prison pen-pal service and married in 1999 while she was also still imprisoned, will be 51 years old by that time.

Mr Dickson and his wife applied to the Home Office asking to be allowed to use IVF in order to conceive a child. When the Home Office refused, the couple challenged the decision in the UK courts. Having exhausted the domestic courts, the couple took their case to the ECHR at Strasbourg. The ECHR ruled, by a bare majority, that the UK's Government had not infringed the rights of Mr and Mrs Dickson.

The majority judgment, supported by four of the seven judges who heard the case, said that the court had recognised 'the difficult situation in which the applicants find themselves', owing to there being no alternative way for them to have children together. However, the nature of the crime committed had to be taken into account, said the court, as well as the welfare of any child that might be conceived under the circumstances, even though there was little likelihood of the couple conceiving a child naturally upon Mr Dickson's release. 'I am far from persuaded that giving life to a child in the meanest circumstances could be viewed as an exercise on promoting its finest interests', said one of the judges. He added that he was 'not particularly impressed by the argument that society regularly allows children to be born in similar or worse circumstances'. 'The state in this case is being asked to become an active accomplice and participant in this future conception', he said.

However, three of the judges disagreed with the majority. In his dissenting judgment, Judge Borrego Borrego, of Spain said that the UK Goverment's attitude towards reproduction in these circumstances was 'paternalistic' and appeared 'hostile to conception other than in conditions of guaranteed family stability'. Mr and Mrs Dickson now have three months to decide whether they want to take their case further, and appeal to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, where 17 judges would hear their case.

Human rights court deny pair baby
BBC News Online |  20 April 2006
Murderer loses fight for right to IVF
Daily Telegraph |  19 April 2006
23 January 2012 - by Professor Richard Storrow 
Procreative liberty and the right to legal recognition of parent-child relationships continue to be prominent themes in disputes between individual citizens and government over access to assisted reproduction. The judiciary has been largely reluctant to state whether resort to reproductive technology is a human right...
20 June 2011 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
The anger generated by the knowledge that in the UK only one prisoner since 2007 has been granted access to artificial insemination (AI) shows there is very little public support for prisoners starting a family while behind bars...
6 June 2011 - by Ben Jones 
A public inquiry has been launched by the UK's Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke after a newspaper's freedom of information request revealed a prisoner was granted permission to provide sperm for use in artificial insemination with his partner while in custody...
12 July 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
An Australian Supreme Court has allowed a woman to continue with her self-funded IVF treatment, after she was given an 18-month jail term for fraud last November...
18 June 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
Israel's High Court of Justice has ruled that Yigal Amir, the assassin who killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, will be allowed to father a child using artificial insemination (AI). Amir was jailed for life without parole following the murder and married Larissa Trimbobler by proxy...
30 April 2006 - by Professor Emily Jackson 
In the recent case of Dickson v UK, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), by a majority, decided that the British government's decision to deny a prisoner and his wife access to artificial insemination (AI) facilities was compatible with their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, as...
3 December 2001 - by BioNews 
Gavin Mellor, the prison inmate who requested the Home Secretary to allow him access to fertility treatment in order that he would be able to artificially inseminate his wife, has lost his appeal case at the House of Lords. Mellor, who is serving a life sentence for murder at Nottingham...
9 April 2001 - by BioNews 
The Court of Appeal has dismissed the claim made by prisoner Gavin Mellor that his human rights were breached by the refusal of access to artificial insemination services while he was in prison. Last year, Mellor requested that he be able to attend a clinic so that his wife could...
26 March 2001 - by BioNews 
A reserved judgement was given by the Court of Appeal in the case of prison inmate Gavin Mellor this week. Mr Mellor, who is serving a life sentence for murder at Nottingham prison, requested that he be allowed to leave prison and attend a clinic to provide sperm to be...
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