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Friday, 23 January 2004


The subscription service All England Direct reports on the unsuccessful judical review mounted by Saira Ali Ahmed, the wife of the notorious criminal Charles Bronson (or Ali Charles Ahmed as he is known following his conversion to Islam). Charles Bronson was originally jailed for 7 years in 1974 but following a series of violent attacks against fellow-inmates and officers, his sentence was extended to life-imprisonment. In June 2001 he married Saira Ahmed in Woodhill maximum security prison in Milton Keynes. Unfortunately, the Prison Service’s nuptials fund didn’t extend to the full Rolls Royce and photographer treatment. Instead, photos of the happy couple were taken by a prison officer using a prison camera. Thus, when Mrs Ahmed sought permission to use the pictures in an autobiography she was writing, the prison governor refused permission based on the Crown Copyright which the pictures were subject to. Mrs Ahmed said that she had no intention to commercially exploit her husband’s notoriety and she offered to give any profits to charity. However, the Govenor was not convinced and neither was the Director of High Security Prisons, to whom she appealed. Finally she applied for a judicial review of the decision.

McCombe J found that there had been no error in the prison authorities’ decision. The decision had not been unfair because the authorities had no obligation to give reasons. The reason for this was that the fact that it was not determining any of Mrs Ahmed’s rights meant it was not a quasi-judicial tribunal. Additionally, because there was no effect on her liberty, her rights under the European Convention of Human Rights were not at issue. She had no expectation of being able to publish the photographs because she knew of the objections to their publication. The defendant’s public interest argument against their publication was valid. Even if Mrs Ahmed herself did not intend to profit, it was in the public interest that others seeking to make money from Charles Bronson’s notoriety (which would happen if the pictures were published) would do so.

The IPKat thinks that this decision is perfectly correct on the issue of copyright. The whole point of copyright is that the author can control how his work is used, if he choses to allow it to be used at all. The Crown is no different in this respect. However, the IPKat wonders whether, by depriving the couple access to their wedding photos, the Prison Service has breached the Ahmeds’ right to a family life under the ECHR.

Britain’s most notorious prisoner here
Visit Woodhill here
More unusual weddings here, here and here

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