'Limbs in the Loch' killer in court battle over prison laptop

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A notorious murder is challenging prison authorities in court after they refused to buy him a laptop.

William Beggs, who was dubbed the 'Limbs in the Loch' killer after murdering and dismembering teenager Barry Wallace 19 years ago, has launched a string of legal actions against the prison service.

The 54-year-old requested a personal computer to deal with litigation. He is now challenging the prison's refusal of his request last May.

Beggs was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 20 years in 2001 after the brutal murder of Mr Wallace. The 18-year-old was attacked and died at Beggs' flat in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire in 1999.

Kenneth Campbell QC, for Beggs, told the Court of Session there was a lengthy history behind the present civil proceedings stretching back to 2002 when the prison complaints commissioner recommended he be allowed access to a word processor for legal work.

Mr Campbell said a prisoner was able to apply to the governor for a personal computer if they were able to show sufficiently compelling circumstances.

He said that following Beggs' transfer to Edinburgh jail he had made further requests to the governor which resulted in earlier legal action.

Beggs, Mr Campbell told the court, wanted a computer for correspondence on legal matters, management of documents and to pursue educational interests.

In January last year there was a meeting between Beggs and a prison governor but he was subsequently told that his application was being turned down.

He was told his request to buy a computer was rejected because he had not provided sufficiently compelling circumstances and had not demonstrated he was presently prejudiced by the lack of access to one. Security and safety concerns were also cited.

But Beggs now claims the decision was irrational and the various factors to be taken into account were not weighed up properly.

Mr Campbell told the court: "It is true that the petitioner (Beggs) has been able to carry on or conduct litigations and their connected correspondence on legal matters but that has been at a cost to him."

He said a number of cases had been funded by legal aid but not all the actions that Beggs had considered necessary.

The senior counsel said: "The petitioner is an individual who is known to have an unusually large number of matters on which there is legal correspondence."

He said the sheer physical scale of it had already caused difficulties between Beggs and the prison authorities.

Mr Campbell argued that there would be a benefit both to Beggs and the prison service in being able to address then issue of the management of documents that was concerning them both.

He said that on occasion Beggs had to instruct solicitors to carry out work rather being able to do it himself via a computer.

Mr Campbell said that safety and security risks mentioned in the refusal letter were "generic". He added: "There is no communication in that section of any specific security or safety risk arising from the circumstances of this petitioner."

"In my submission, a decision maker of this kind, making a public law decision, fails the rationality test by simply asserting a generic reason without engaging further with the circumstances of a particular applicant," he said.

He said a small number of laptops were available for loan which have communication technology features disabled and other modifications made to them.

He said that Beggs had indicated he would be content with a machine of a similar type of specification.

The action, before Lord Clark, is being contested on behalf of the Scottish Prison Service.