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Pervert 'limbs in loch' killer William Beggs wins human rights against prison authorities who opened his mail

By Lucinda Cameron

Published 22/07/2015

William Beggs in handcuffs after his horrific killing of an 18-year-old man
William Beggs in handcuffs after his horrific killing of an 18-year-old man

Anger has greeted a judge’s ruling that ‘Limbs in the Loch’ killer William Beggs had his human rights breached by prison authorities who opened his mail.

Beggs, originally from Lurgan in Co Armagh, complained that his mail from the UK Information Commissioner's Office was opened while he was a prisoner in HMP Glenochil, while other confidential mail addressed to him was also opened in HMP Edinburgh.

Beggs - who was described as "a victim" by the judge - also complained of delays in receiving confidential mail.

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: "There are serious questions to be asked about how this case progressed to the stage it was heard in court.

"What is not in doubt is that the public will be appalled and outraged that William Beggs, who is a dangerous and depraved individual, is now being described as a 'victim'.

"Worse still, public money will almost certainly have been used to pay for his legal aid bill in taking this case to court.

"It is little wonder with cases like these that the UK government is looking at a UK Bill of Human Rights."

Beggs' lawyer had argued that there had been a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which guarantees everyone the right to "respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

He was convicted in 2001 of murdering 18-year-old Barry Wallace in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire.

The victim's limbs and torso were recovered from Loch Lomond while his head was found washed up on a beach near Troon.

Shortly after the crime, Beggs fled to the Netherlands.

After lengthy extradition proceedings, he was ordered in January 2001 to be returned to Scotland to face trial.

Beggs was jailed for life and ordered to spend at least 20 years behind bars.

His lawyer argued that his human rights had been breached by the opening of his confidential correspondence and by delay in delivery of his correspondence.

The incidents happened between January 2013 and January 2015.

In a Court of Session judgment, Lady Stacey ruled that his human rights had been breached, although she made "no finding that anything was done deliberately or maliciously".

"It is not for a court to decide on the detail of the way in which a prison is run. That is a matter for Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and I should and do show due deference to its ability and experience which I do not share," she said.

"Nevertheless, I am persuaded that the failures in implementation are such as to show that the system put in place by SPS during the time relevant to the complaints relating to privileged correspondence was insufficient in its actual working to enable the petitioner's right to respect for his correspondence to be upheld."

Lady Stacey added: "I therefore find that the petitioner's rights under article 8 have been breached; that he is a victim; and I will hear counsel on whether a declarator or any other remedy is necessary at a date to be fixed."

An Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: "We can confirm that we have received the decision and we are considering any next steps.

"It would not be appropriate for SPS to comment further."

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