Asylum seeker assaulted
Representational image of a prison cell. RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images

Murders and rapists who have been serving life sentences in the UK may soon be banned from getting married under new legislation proposed by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab.

Raab has proposed a Victims' Bill, which stipulates that criminals serving life terms should be banned from ever getting married. In a letter addressed to his colleagues, Raab expressed concerns about the developments that have taken place since serial killer Levi Bellfield's plans to get married became public.

"I consider there is a very real risk that marriage in such cases would undermine public and victims' confidence in the Criminal Justice System," Raab wrote in the letter accessed by The Sun.

"Even where there is no risk of direct physical harm there is a significant risk of coercive or controlling behaviour. I have seen how Bellfield seeking to marry has caused distress and trauma to his victims," he added.

Bellfield applied to marry in prison last May. He wishes to marry a regular female visitor at HMP Frankfield in Durham. The development sparked outrage across the UK, forcing authorities to take some action to address such cases.

Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives killers like Bellfield the right to apply for consideration so that he can be allowed to marry the person he wants to if permitted. The article has delayed the passing of the Victims' Bill. The Conservative government has attracted a lot of criticism from Labour MPs for failing to get the bill passed.

"Labour has been calling for a Victims Bill for over eight years, but the Conservatives have dragged their feet and done nothing. In which time, we have had seven Justice Secretaries," said Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed.

According to a report in The Independent, around 60 prisoners applied to get married last year. Bellfield himself is serving two whole-life sentences.

According to different sources, he has between five and 11 children, and was already serving life for the hammer murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange when he was convicted of the murder of Milly Dowler.

Milly was abducted while walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002. Her skeleton was found in a wood in Yateley Heath, Hampshire - 25 miles from her house - nearly six months later.

Bellfield was given a whole-life prison sentence in June 2011 for the murder of the teenager. He confessed when an investigation was launched into whether he had an accomplice after he bragged to a fellow prisoner about his crime.

He gave the police a graphic account of how he repeatedly raped, tortured, and murdered Milly. He revealed he kidnapped her in broad daylight outside her house and took her to his flat near Walton station where he assaulted her. He then drove her to his mother's house, where he raped and tortured her for several hours before strangling her to death.

Since being imprisoned, Bellfield has converted to Islam and now calls himself Yusuf Rahim. He has "confessed" to a number of other unsolved murders, but police have not found any evidence to support the claims.

Bellfield is one of around 65 prisoners in the UK serving whole-life prison terms. These include Sutcliffe, Moors Murderer Ian Brady, Rose West, and Jo Cox's killer, Thomas Mair. However, Bellfield is not the only high-profile criminal who wishes to marry even as he serves a life sentence.

One of the most high-profile prison weddings in the UK was that of Charles Bronson and television actress Paula Williamson in 2017. The couple tied the knot at HMP Wakefield.

Bronson was famously portrayed by British actor Tom Hardy in a 2008 film about his life that proved a cult classic and a star-making turn for the future Mad Max and Dark Knight Rises star.