Serial killer Levi Bellfield's request to marry prompts plans to change law
Prisoners serving whole life sentences would be prevented from marrying under new Government plans.
It comes amid anger over a bid by Milly Dowler's killer Levi Bellfield to challenge a decision blocking the serial killer from marrying in prison.
Bellfield, 54, is currently serving two whole life sentences for the murder of the 13 year-old and two other women.
Milly Dowler was snatched from the street walking from school to her home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has pledged to “change the law” to prevent those serving whole life sentences from getting married, but the move could create fresh legal challenges for the Government.
Downing Street on Friday confirmed that details of the planned legislation would be announced in “due course”, calling it “deeply inappropriate” that such criminals can marry while incarcerated.
He applied to marry his girlfriend last year, and has reportedly made a bid for legal aid to challenge the decision to block his marriage.
Mr Raab, who intends to unveil a new Victims Bill to tackle the issue, told LBC: “I don’t think it is appropriate and, both within the realm of the existing powers that I have but also the legislative agenda, on which I will be saying more shortly, I think it is wrong.
“There is a question around the risk around anyone who would marry an offender as egregious as, in this case, Levi Bellfield.”
Regarding Bellfield’s prison marriage bid, the Justice Secretary said: “There is no question of taxpayers’ money being used on some sort of celebration.”
Explaining why he felt new legislation was needed, Mr Raab said: “I think particularly in that kind of case, I think a lot of people, and I know your listeners will find it an affront to the basic system of criminal justice.
“I don’t think it is appropriate and I’m going to change the law. We are committed to that.”
A Downing Street spokesman repeated that the Government saw such marriages as “inappropriate”.
“We don’t believe it’s right for prisoners serving whole life orders to marry in prison,” the official said.
Any such legislation could face a legal challenge, with the European Convention on Human Rights containing an explicit right to marriage under Article 12.
Mr Raab, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, has previously criticised the Human Rights Act for putting “all sorts of obstacles” in the way of being able to block Bellfield’s marriage.
Upon receiving Bellfield’s application for marriage in 2022, Mr Raab said: “What I can tell you is it is inconceivable that the prison or the Ministry of Justice would authorise that marriage unless the very significant concerns about the safeguarding were addressed.”
Bellfield received a whole life sentence for the murder of Marsha McDonnell, 19, in 2003, Amelie Delagrange, 22, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, 18, in 2004.
He was already serving his sentence when he went on trial for killing schoolgirl Milly.
He was found guilty of abducting and killing the 13-year-old following a trial at the Old Bailey in 2011.
More than 60 criminals are believed to be currently serving whole life orders.