Murderer mounts ‘search’ challenge

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MURDERER James Dowsett has won the right to mount a legal challenge against female prison officers giving him ‘rub-down’ searches in jail.

The lifer claims he is made to feel ‘embarrassed and uncomfortable’ and his human rights are being violated by the searches which are said to have been repeated about 1,500 times since he was jailed in 1989 for the murder of his business partner.

Dowsett, 66, was said to have paid two men £20,000 to kill Christopher Nugent whose body was found with shotgun wounds to the head in Mildenhall in 1987.

If Dowsett wins the landmark case, he could force a change in the Ministry of Justice policy to allow male inmates to choose who they are searched by.

His case is being brought against the Ministry of Justice, drawing on public funds, claiming its policy of allowing only female and religious minority prisoners to choose who they are ‘rubbed down’ by is discriminatory and breaches his human rights.

He has now served his 21-year minimum term, but has failed to win parole. Dowsett is housed at HMP Highpoint, Stradishall, and suffers from ill health, London’s High Court was told.

His barrister Adam Straw said: “The searches involve staff touching the prisoner’s intimate areas.”

But Jonathan Swift, QC, for the Ministry, questioned whether Dowsett had any real objections. He said: “He says every time he has been searched by a female prison officer he has had feelings of discomfort, embarrassment etc. But there is a serious question to the credibility, given the fact that it has taken 18 years for him to raise it.”

Mrs Justice Thirlwall on Wednesday ruled his claims of sexual and religious dsicrimination and the breach of his human right to privacy should be given full hearing by a High Court judge.