Inmate in gender challenge on strip searches

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A JUDGE is to be asked to rule whether male prisoners should be subjected to searches by female prison officers.

Prisoner James Dowsett – who is in his 60s and was convicted of murdering business partner Christopher Nugent in Mildenhall, Suffolk, in the late 1980s – says searches by female officers embarrass him and breach discrimination and human rights legislation.

Dowsett was yesterday given permission to mount a court challenge to a Ministry of Justice policy on prisoner searches.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Thirlwall said, following a hearing in London, that Dowsett had an “arguable” case and could seek a judicial review.

Lawyers representing Justice Secretary Ken Clarke told the judge that prison bosses did not accept that Dowsett was “embarrassed” when searched by a female officer.

They said the policy of allowing male prisoners to be searched by male and female officers was introduced nearly 20 years ago and Dowsett had not complained for more than a decade.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said ministers would not comment because legal proceedings were ongoing.