James Dowsett in court challenge over rub-down searches

A murderer has won the first stage of a human rights challenge over rub-down searches by female prison officers.

James Dowsett was jailed for life in 1989 for the murder of Christopher Nugent, whose body was found in Mildenhall, Suffolk, in 1987.

Dowsett, now in his mid 60s, says the searches make him "embarrassed and uncomfortable".

The High Court ruled Dowsett's claims that his human rights were breached should be given a full hearing.

Dowsett is mounting a publicly-funded claim against the Ministry of Justice - arguing its policy of allowing only female and religious minority prisoners to choose who they are "rubbed-down" by is discriminatory and violates his human rights.

Paid for killing

Despite saying she had "significant reservations" about his claims, Mrs Justice Thirlwall granted Dowsett permission to seek a full judicial review of the ministry's nationwide policy on searching prisoners.

Dowsett was found guilty of the murder of his business partner by a jury at Norwich Crown Court.

The prosecution case was that he paid two men more than £7,500 to carry out the killing.

Dowsett is being held at HMP Highpoint, in Stradishall, Suffolk. He has served his 21-year minimum term but has failed to win parole.

His lawyers argue the rub-down searches prisoners are subjected to in jail amount to more than a "cursory skimming" of a convict's clothes.

His barrister, Adam Straw, told the court: "The rub-down searches involve staff touching the prisoner's intimate areas."

Jonathan Swift QC, for the Ministry of Justice, told the court: "There is a serious question to the credibility of that evidence, given the fact that it has taken 18 years for him to raise it."

If Dowsett wins his case, he could force a change in Ministry of Justice policy.

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