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 used in artificially inseminating his wife, Tracey.
His request had been refused by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. But the decision was challenged by judicial review in the High Court last July, where it was held that the Home Secretary's decision was neither irrational nor unreasonable. Mellor's QC, David Pannick, called the refusal 'unjustifiably paternalistic' and argued at appeal that although permission had recently been granted to allow Mr Mellor's sperm to be taken to assess his fertility, the decision not to allow artificial insemination had been in contravention of Mellor's right to found a family under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Pannick also said, 'the prison service is no more entitled to prevent Mr Mellor's access to a clinic for the purposes of artificial insemination than if he had an in-growing toe nail or any other condition'. Mellor fears that his wife, who is now 25, might be too old to conceive by the time he is released. The earliest date for his parole is 2006 but he may be temporarily released in 2004.
For the government, Dinah Rose argued that Mellor lost the right to start a family by committing an offence and being convicted and jailed for it. She said that the Home Secretary's decision had not been irrational as it took into account the welfare of any resulting child, and that allowing Mr Mellor to leave prison to donate sperm might undermine public confidence in prisons as a deterrence for crime.
Sources and References
Killer 'has right to father a child'