Four murderers and a drug dealer are close to receiving taxpayer-funded fertility treatment, it has emerged.
Five applications for IVF by inmates in England and Wales are waiting to be processed by ministers, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed in a Freedom of Information response to the Daily Mail.
The names and details of the inmates are protected by privacy laws, but three were convicted of murder, one of murder and aggravated burglary and the fifth of possession of a class A drug with intent to supply.
And if unsuccessful, the prisoners could ultimately take their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that their right to a private and family life has been breached. A 2007 ruling by the Strasbourg court in the case of convicted killer Kirk Dickson opened up the circumstances under which prisoners could apply for fertility treatment.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he would bring forward proposals to prevent the ECHR pushing its remit into "areas which have little to do with real human rights issues". He said: "There can be no clearer example of why we need changes to the human rights framework. I don't believe the originators of the Convention on Human Rights ever imagined it being used for things like this."
It was previously reported that a prisoner had been given access to artificial insemination treatment on the NHS in early 2011 at a cost of around £2,000. Since then, eight out of 13 applications by inmates have been rejected.
The ECHR ruled that Britain had breached the rights of murderer Dickson, then 35, and his wife Lorraine, then 49, by denying them access to artificial insemination. This effectively broadened the terms under which prisoners could apply for access to IVF treatment. Dickson was sentenced to life for kicking to death a 41-year-old man in 1995 and was sent to Dovergate Prison in Uttoxeter. The couple's legal team put their case before the ECHR Grand Chamber, arguing that artificial insemination was their only chance to have a child of their own. They met via a pen pal network in 1999 while Mrs Dickson was also in prison, and married in 2001.
Dickson and his wife launched a legal battle in October 2001, but two years later then-home secretary David Blunkett rejected their bid. He gave a number of reasons, including a lack of evidence about how the child would be supported financially and public concern that the punitive parts of Dickson's prison term were being circumvented.
Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal then rejected further attempts to get their bid reconsidered, before the Dicksons went to the European courts. They claimed the Home Secretary's decision violated Articles 8 and 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These concern rights to a private and family life and the right for men and women to marry and found a family.
In 2006, a panel of seven judges at the European Court of Human Rights found by a majority of four to three that the Home Secretary's decision did not violate these rights. The judges took into consideration the gravity of Dickson's crime and the welfare of any children the couple might conceive. The Dicksons then took their case to the court's Grand Chamber, which hears the most important cases. The court ruled in their favour, awarding them 5,000 euros (£4,100) in damages and 21,000 euros (£17,000) in costs.