Denmark to outlaw life sentence prisoners starting new romances

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<span>Photograph: Mikko Suominen/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Mikko Suominen/Getty Images

Prisoners serving life sentences in Denmark are to be prevented from starting new romantic relationships after it emerged a 17-year-old fell in love with Peter Madsen, the murderer of the journalist Kim Wall, while he was in jail.

For the first 10 years of their imprisonment, long-term inmates’ contacts, by letter, phone or online, will be limited to people they already knew before they entered prison, under legislation tabled by the social democrat-led government.

“We have seen distasteful examples in recent years of prisoners who have committed vile crimes contacting young people in order to gain their sympathy and attention,” the justice minister, Nick Hækkerup, said. “This must obviously be stopped.”

The six-point bill, which has the backing of the centre-right opposition and should come into force in January, will also stop long-term prisoners being allowed to post freely about their offences on social media or discuss them on podcasts.

At present, long-term inmates can write to, call and have visits from people they did not know before they were imprisoned, and share details of their offences online. Jails should not serve as “dating centres or media platforms to brag about crimes”, Hækkerup said.

The bill follows public outcry at the way Madsen, who murdered then dismembered Wall in 2017 when she went to interview him on his homemade submarine, was able to form relationships with at least two women while in jail.

The inventor, who was convicted of premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault and desecrating a corpse but only confessed to Wall’s murder in a TV documentary last year, met and in 2020 married Jenny Curpen, 39, a Russian artist in Finland, after correspondence and visits that began soon after he was sentenced in April 2018.

Madsen also had a phone and written relationship with Cammilla Kürstein, who first contacted him as a 17-year-old schoolgirl in 2017 and last year told the Danish public broadcaster DK in an emotional interview that she was “absolutely in love with him”.

Human rights experts said they expected challenges to the new law. Jens Elo Rytter, of the University of Copenhagen, told the BT newspaper that on the face of it, the proposed ban on new relationships would “interfere with prisoners’ right to a private life”, while outlawing public statements might “raise questions about censorship”.

Wall, who had written for the Guardian and the New York Times, was last seen alive on the submarine, the Nautilus, on 10 August 2017. Her dismembered torso was found floating off the coast of Copenhagen 10 days after she was reported missing. Her head, legs and clothes were discovered in bags at sea that October.

Madsen, who was rescued shortly before the vessel sank, initially claimed to have set down the journalist on dry land. He subsequently changed his story, saying she had died when a heavy hatch cover accidentally fell on her head during their brief voyage on the 17-metre (56ft) submarine.

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