His murder shocked Denmark and beyond. He was challenging the ban on making contact with people he did not know before his life sentence: the Danish court on Thursday rejected the country's most famous prisoner's request. Peter Madsen argued that the law prohibiting lifers from interacting with people they did not know before their conviction for the first ten years of their sentence violates his right to privacy, as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
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Madsen was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal killing of journalist Kim Wall in her homemade submarine in 2017. "The court found no basis for (this claim), which is why Storstrøm Prison has been exonerated of a number of allegations made by the detainee," the Nykøbing Falster court wrote in a statement.
However, the court allowed him to receive visits, mail and calls from a woman, a prison guard, whom he had met after his crime but before his conviction, which the prison had banned. "It's 50-50, but he's going to be less isolated than before," Madsen's lawyer, Tobias Stadardfeld Jensen, told AFP.
Rattled placid Denmark
Six years ago, his crime shook placid Denmark, one of the safest countries in the world. A few years later, public opinion revolted when a very young woman revealed that she had fallen under his spell, initially by letter, which precipitated the new legislation, unique in Europe, in force since 2022.
Linda Kjaer Minke, a professor of criminology at the University of Southern Denmark, said Madsen's lawsuit had a strong legal basis. "The law may be a violation of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. This article declares that everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life and correspondence," she said.
For this lawyer and sociologist, "the law should not limit the rights of prisoners in general to protect a small number of women who may need help and support." She said it was a "shame" that he was the first person serving a life sentence to challenge the law in court. "In the public debate, his crime overshadows the invasiveness of this legislation and the fact that the Danish state may have gone too far," she said.
For the lawyer, the outcome of the trial should determine "whether, as a society, we respect the principles outlined in international conventions or whether we are content to satisfy the public opinion that Peter Madsen should be punished even more severely than anyone else".
"A young woman developed feelings for him"
Madsen, now 52, has had little or no contact with the outside world since the law came into effect, and he was convicted in June of violating it by exchanging four letters. "It's a coincidence that those who are looking for his contact are women," said Stadardfeld Jensen, who said the exchanges were mostly about rockets, the former inventor's primary passion. Only one has a romantic character. "A young woman developed feelings for him," he admitted.
"It's not a human right to make new friends or go on dates when you're in jail for violent and bestial crimes," Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard told AFP. "The purpose of the law is, among other things, to put an end to the repetition of previous examples of inmates contacting young people and luring them into their nets in order to gain their sympathy and attention," he stressed.
"This is a man who knows that what he has done is very brutal and he has no sympathy for himself," his counsel said. Kim Wall, a brilliant thirty-year-old journalist, was killed in August 2017 aboard the submarine built by Peter Madsen, an inventor with a whimsical reputation at the time, whom she wanted to portray.