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Rapists and murderers serving life sentences to be banned from getting married in prison

A bride and groom sign a church marriage registration book following their wedding, as new research suggests marriage is good for blood sugar control (Alamy/PA)
A bride and groom sign a church marriage registration book following their wedding, as new research suggests marriage is good for blood sugar control (Alamy/PA)

Prisoners serving life sentences are to be banned from getting married, under new legislation.

Under Justice Secretary Dominic Raab’s Victims’ Bill — due to be unveiled in the next fortnight — rapists and muderers serving whole life terms could be banned from ever getting married.

In a letter to Cabinet colleagues leaked to The Sun, Mr Raab said: “I consider there is a very real risk that marriage in such cases would undermine public and victims’ confidence in the Criminal Justice System.

Serial killer Levi Bellfield’s request to get married in prison is “inconceivable” unless serious safeguarding concerns are addressed, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Serial killer Levi Bellfield’s request to get married in prison is “inconceivable” unless serious safeguarding concerns are addressed, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

“Even where there is no risk of direct physical harm there is a significant risk of coercive or controlling behaviour.

“I have seen how Bellfield seeking to marry has caused distress and trauma to his victims.”

The launch of the bill had been delayed for months amid fears of legal challenges under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights which enshrines the right to marry.

However, Downing Street is confident it would win a legal battle, with the Attorney General backing the legislation.

Around 60 prisoners applied to get married last year.

A Ministry of Justice source told The Sun: “Victims rightly don’t want to see their perpetrators marry behind bars and we are aiming to put a stop to it.”

Conservative MP Brendan Clarke-Smith has backed the bill, telling The Sun: “Rapists and murderers who are locked up for life shouldn’t be allowed to prey on vulnerable members of the public, who could be groomed into marriage.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed criticised the Conservatives for failing to enact a bill sooner.

He said: “Labour has been calling for a Victims Bill for over eight years, but the Conservatives have dragged their feet and done nothing. In which time, we’ve had seven Justice Secretaries.

“A Victims Bill worth its name needs to do more than just impose a marriage ban on lifers.

“A Labour government will put victims at the heart of the justice system with support for rape victims, more powers for the Victims’ Commissioner to support and protect victims, and deliver a 50% increase in Crown Prosecutors to cut the record courts backlog.”

Last year it was revealed that Milly Dowler’s murderer Levi Bellfield planned to marry a regular female visitor at HMP Frankfield in Durham.

Under the Justice Secretary’s plans, his wedding plans could be prevented.

Bellfield is serving two whole life orders for murdering Marsha McDonnell, Amelie Delagrange and Milly Dowler.

The serial killer was given a whole life term for murdering Ms McDonnell, 19, in 2003, and murdering Ms Delagrange, 22, and attempting to murder Kate Sheedy, 18, in 2004.

He was already serving this sentence when he went on trial for killing schoolgirl Milly, who was snatched from the street walking from school to her home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.

Bellfield was found guilty of abducting and killing the 13-year-old following a trial at the Old Bailey in 2011.