ONE of the country's most notorious murderers is taking the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) to court as part of a battle relating to prisoner access to laptops.
William Beggs, the so-called "Limbs in the Loch" killer, has already cost the taxpayer more than £8000 after appealing a separate SIC decision in the Court of Session.
Conservative MSP John Lamont accused Beggs of "playing games" with the legal system.
In 2001, Beggs was ordered to serve at least 20 years after being found guilty of murdering teenager Barry Wallace in 1999. Beggs, who is currently in Glenochil prison, dismembered Wallace before disposing of his limbs and torso in Loch Lomond, and his head in waters off the Ayrshire coast.
Since his conviction, Beggs has launched a raft of legal bids on a variety of subjects.
In 2002, he launched an unsuccessful appeal against his sentence and conviction. He has also made an unsuccessful court bid to be given voting rights, an attempt that reportedly cost the public purse around £30,000. Beggs was recently awarded £4800 by the European Court of Human Rights, which found that delays to his appeal had breached his human rights.
The Sunday Herald can now reveal that Beggs has opened up a new legal front, this time against Scotland's information watchdog.
In January, Beggs asked the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) for information contained in letters and emails between SPS officials about the procurement of a laptop facility for prisoners at Glenochil.
He also wanted to see communications on the implementation of a prison-wide laptop policy.
It is believed Beggs wants regular access to a computer for his legal casework.
SPS refused to provide the information, on the basis that the request would cost too much to answer.
Beggs took the dispute to Commissioner Rosemary Agnew, who backed the SPS.
According to court rolls, Beggs lodged an appeal against Agnew's decision last week.
It is the second time Beggs has contested a SIC judgment. In 2010, he asked Strathclyde Police for information relating to its "investigation into the murder of a named individual", a request refused by the force.
After the SIC backed Strathclyde Police, Beggs appealed to the Court of Session.
This case, which is currently sisted – meaning officially on hold – has already cost the publicly-funded SIC £8785.
A spokesman for the SIC could not confirm its legal bill for the laptop dispute, as the case is still at an early stage.
A spokesman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said he was not able to say whether Beggs would get legal aid for the laptop appeal.
Lamont, the Tories' chief whip, said: "This man, responsible for a brutal killing, is clearly playing games with legal systems in Scotland and Europe. It shouldn't be allowed to happen – it is an insult to the taxpayer and, more importantly, the family of his victim.
"Beggs didn't deserve the compensation he was awarded, and he doesn't deserve to take the public purse for a ride. Stunts like those of Beggs and his lawyers risk making our legal systems look vulnerable and laughable."
Lewis Macdonald, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, said: "Kenny MacAskill and the SNP have fallen out with the legal profession by making people on very low incomes pay more for their legal advice. If he really wants to save public money, perhaps MacAskill should be looking at a case like this and asking why a convicted murderer is allowed to waste court time and public money."
A SIC spokesperson said: "As set out in the Court of Session rolls, we currently have two outstanding appeals to the Court of Session involving this applicant.
"As I am sure you will appreciate, the Commissioner is unable to comment on the progress or details of any appeals that are live within the judicial process."