Dickson v. United Kingdom

Mr. and Mrs. Dickson (“the Applicants”) were a married couple. At the time of the application, Mr. Dickson was serving a prison sentence for murder and was not scheduled for release for several years. Given the first applicant’s foreseeable release date and the second applicant’s age, it was unlikely that they would be able to have a child together without the use of artificial insemination and therefore, the Applicants requested for facilities for artificial insemination.

The Secretary of State refused their application, explaining that under general policy, requests for artificial insemination by prisoners could only be granted in “exceptional circumstances.” The grounds given for refusal were that: the applicants’ relationship had never been tested in the normal environment of daily life (as they met while incarcerated), insufficient provision had been made for the welfare of any child that might be conceived, that mother and child would have only a limited support network, and that the child’s father would not be present for an important part of her or his childhood. It was also considered that there would be legitimate public concern that the punitive and deterrent elements of the first applicant’s sentence were being circumvented if he were allowed to father a child by artificial insemination while in prison.

The Applicants were refused leave by the UK High Court and Court of Appeal to seek judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision and on 23 November 2004, they filed a complaint before the European Court of Human Right, alleging that by refusing them access to artificial insemination facilities the U.K. had breached their rights under Articles 8 (right to respect for private life) and 12 (right to marry) of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”). On 18 April 2006 a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been no violation of Articles 8 or 12 of the Convention. On 13 September 2006 the Court granted the applicants’ request to refer the case to the Grand Chamber.