A suicidal prisoner has failed in a High Court bid for the right to be given razors so that he can cut and mutilate himself to relieve the stresses which could ultimately cause him to kill himself.

A judge ruled that the "grotesque" suggestion that lifer Jeffrey Watkins should be provided with the means to self-harm "flies in the face of what we regard as civilised standards". Watkins is on suicide watch at Rye Hill prison at Onley, near Rugby, Warwicks, where he is serving his life sentence. The court heard that Watkins had made "very serious" attempts to commit suicide in the past.

His counsel Flo Krause said he suffered from bipolar dis-order, or manic depression, had been a persistent self-harmer for many years, and medical experts agreed that cutting himself "lifts his mood" by releasing endorphins into his system, thereby making suicide less likely.

Mr Justice Newman, sitting at the High Court in London, said Watkins was asserting that, under the European Convention on Human Rights, "he has the right to mutilate himself with razor blades to the extent of cutting to the muscle, and that the (Home Secretary) is legally bound to facilitate that mutilation by providing him with hygienic razor blades and sterile first-aid equipment". He also wanted less supervision and to be left in the dark at night.

Rejecting the challenge, the judge said: "It is offensive to the individual, it is offensive to the (prison) staff and to the Prison Service and it flies in the face of what we regard as civilised standards".

Ms Krause, who waived her barrister's fee to raise Watkins' human rights case, argued the Prison Service policy in respect of self-harm and suicide was so "intrusive" it was increasing stress and adding to the danger Watkins would commit suicide.

Ms Krause said: "He is not arguing for the right to die. On the contrary, he is arguing for measures to be limited so that he doesn't die in custody. He is seeking to preserve his life and not to die."

The judge said Watkins' "stark and sad" case was "un-arguable". He ruled: "It would in my judgment be a strange state of affairs in a civilised society if the humanity of a policy of protection should be susceptible to this sort of challenge by reference to the European Convention on Human Rights".