CASE OF McMICHAEL v. THE UNITED KINGDOM
(Application no. 16424/90)
24 February 1995
In the case of McMichael v. the United Kingdom1,
The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the relevant provisions of Rules of Court A2, as a Chamber composed of the following judges:
Mr R. Ryssdal, President,
Mr F. Gölcüklü,
Mr L.-E. Pettiti,
Mr R. Macdonald,
Mr C. Russo,
Mr A. Spielmann,
Mrs E. Palm,
Mr I. Foighel,
Sir John Freeland,
and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 22 September 1994 and 25 January 1995,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:
The Commission’s request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration whereby the United Kingdom recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46). The object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the facts of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its obligations under Articles 6 para. 1, 8 and 14 (art. 6-1, art. 8, art. 14) of the Convention.
There appeared before the Court:
- for the Government
Mrs S.J. Dickson, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Agent,
Mr T.C. Dawson, QC, Solicitor General for Scotland,
Mr R. Reed, Advocate, Counsel,
Mr J.L. Jamieson, Solicitor, Scottish Office,
Mr D. MacNab, Administrator, Scottish Office, Advisers;
- for the Commission
Mrs G.H. Thune, Delegate;
- for the applicants
Mr P.T. McCann, Solicitor, Counsel,
Mr T. Ruddy, Trainee Solicitor, Adviser.
The Court heard addresses by Mrs Thune, Mr McCann and Mr Dawson as well as replies to its questions.
AS TO THE FACTS
I. PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. Events up to and during 1987
(2) That the parent suffers from a major psychiatric illness.
(3) That the parent refuses to take medication to stabilise her condition when not an in-patient at psychiatric hospital.
(4) That the parent has required to be admitted to psychiatric hospital on emergency basis ... on 5 June 1986, 5 December 1986 and 31 December 1986.
(5) That due to her psychiatric condition the parent is unlikely to be able to care adequately for the child."
The children’s hearing also issued a warrant under section 37 (4) of the 1968 Act for A.’s continued detention in a place of safety until 6 January 1988 (see paragraph 50 below). A subsequent warrant was granted by a further children’s hearing on 5 January 1988.
The first applicant, who also has a history of mental illness, was not included at this stage in the access arrangements. The principal reason for this was that the second applicant continued to deny that he was A.’s father and he did not himself make any claim to be the father. Other reasons were his aggressive and threatening attitude and his refusal to give information about his background.
B. Events during 1988
On an application by the Reporter and after hearing submissions on behalf of the Reporter and the second applicant, the Sheriff also granted a warrant for A.’s continued detention in a place of safety for a further period not exceeding twenty-one days.
The children’s hearing decided that A. did need compulsory measures of care. They therefore made a supervision requirement under section 44 (1) (a) of the 1968 Act, placing A. under the supervision of the Council subject to the condition that he reside with the foster parents in Greenock (as to supervision requirements, see paragraphs 58 to 60 below). The decision was based, inter alia, on the mental health of both applicants, their aggressive and hostile behaviour and the second applicant’s refusal to seek psychiatric help and treatment. This decision did not make any provision as to access. In such circumstances the presumption is that parents will be given reasonable access, subject to section 20 (1) of the 1968 Act which empowers a local authority to deny access where necessary for the child’s welfare.
Visits by the second applicant to A. at the foster home, under the supervision of a social worker, began on 26 May 1988 and continued until September 1988.
Access at the centre began on 4 October 1988.
The children’s hearing decided to continue the supervision requirement and to approve the access proposals. The hearing considered that only time would show if A.’s return to the care of the applicants was a viable prospect and that the second applicant’s mental health should be closely monitored.
The second applicant did not appeal to the Sheriff Court.
C. Events during 1989
The applicants asked for access to be re-established. The hearing considered that there might be a conflict of interest between the second applicant and A. They therefore adjourned the hearing to allow for the appointment of a "safeguarder", that is an independent person to represent the interests of the child (as to which, see paragraph 53 below).
The hearing concluded that the supervision requirement should continue and that there was nothing in what they had heard to convince them that they should grant access. They did not take up a suggestion by the second applicant’s solicitor to grant a further adjournment in order to obtain an independent psychiatric report on the second applicant.
(a) the applicants had not been informed of the substance of the documents produced at the hearing;
(b) the refusal of access was based on inadequate information, in particular the lack of up-to-date information as to the second applicant’s mental health; and
(c) the refusal to adjourn the hearing for the purpose of obtaining a psychiatric report on the second applicant’s current mental health was manifestly unreasonable.
In the event ground (a) was withdrawn. At the appeal hearing on 4 October 1989 the Sheriff decided that it would have been appropriate to obtain a psychiatric report. He therefore allowed the appeal and remitted the case to the children’s hearing.
D. Events during 1990
A further hearing was held on 18 January 1990. Neither applicant attended or was represented. The hearing concluded that the second applicant was not well enough to have access to A. and that they could not see any future for A. with her. A condition was added to the supervision requirement that there be no access by the second applicant. The second applicant did not appeal to the Sheriff Court.
"Mrs McMichael is incapable of having permanent care of the child [A.] because of the severity and unpredictability of her illness. When she is actively ill it would be unsafe for the child to be in her care.
The natural parents have no understanding of what is meant by loving and caring for a child and have demonstrated an inability either to learn such skills, or to want to learn them.
It is in the interests of the child’s welfare that he be freed for adoption. The natural parents are both emotionally and intellectually incapable of giving the child a secure and stable environment. If he were in their care he would be liable to suffer emotional deprivation and, because of their inability physically to care for him, could be in situations of danger."
The Sheriff concluded:
"In my view, there is no escaping from the conclusion that both these parents are withholding their agreement unreasonably. They are withholding their agreement because they are not parents who have begun to demonstrate their capacity to have custody. Mrs McMichael suffers from a grave mental illness which may at any time, unless appropriate medical treatment is taken, incapacitate her from looking after, not only a child, but herself. Even when her illness is not to the degree at which hospitalisation is required, she has been demonstrated as incapable of the most elementary physical and emotional capacities in parenting. The one capacity she does have, I accept, is the desire to be a parent, to have the child, but the accomplishment of that ambition is, I fear, demonstrated to be beyond her. The incapacity of the father to behave normally as a parent to the child is established by the evidence of Mrs [K. (the health visitor)] and Mrs [M. (from the social work department)], whose testimonies support the findings in fact I have made relating to access visits ..."
E. Events during 1991 and 1992
F. Events during 1993
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
A. Rights of parents
(a) the right of tutory, which can be described as the right to administer the child’s property and to act legally on behalf of the child;
(b) the right of custody, which can be described as the right of the parent to have the child living with him or her, or otherwise to negotiate the child’s residence and to control the child’s day-to-day upbringing;
(c) the right to access.
"(a) a child’s mother shall have parental rights whether or not she is or has been married to the child’s father;
(b) a child’s father shall have parental rights only if he is married to the child’s mother or was married to her at the time of the child’s conception or subsequently."
Section 2 (1) is in turn subject to section 3, which enables any person claiming an interest to make an application to court for an order relating to parental rights (subsection (1)). The court, which is bound to regard the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration, may not make such an order unless satisfied that to do so would be in the interests of the child (subsection (2)). The natural father of a child born out of wedlock (who is not automatically entitled under section 2 (1)) may obtain parental rights (including tutory, custody or access) under this procedure by applying to either the Court of Session or the local Sheriff Court. Where the mother consents, the matter will be dealt with expeditiously.
B. Compulsory measures of care
1. The institutional framework
(a) The local authority
(b) The Reporter
(c) Children’s hearings
Under domestic law a children’s hearing is regarded as a tribunal. It comes under the statutory system applicable to tribunals in Scotland (paragraph 61 of Schedule 1 to the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992). Its members are considered to enjoy judicial immunity from proceedings for wrongful detention and defamation, in the same way as judges of the lower courts.
"(c) lack of parental care is likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or seriously to impair his health or development."
Thus, in the absence of agreement, a decision by a judge on the grounds of referral, after hearing appropriate evidence, is essential before the children’s hearing can consider the case.
(d) The Sheriff
(a) to grant a warrant for continued detention of a child in a place of safety, pending a hearing, in certain circumstances;
(b) to adjudicate on whether the grounds of referral to the children’s hearing are established, where the child or his parent does not accept them;
(c) to hear appeals against decisions of children’s hearings.
2. The procedure
(a) Urgent measures
(b) Duties of the Reporter
(c) Persons entitled to attend at children’s hearings
(d) The safeguarder
(e) Establishment of grounds of referral
(f) Determination of the case by the children’s hearing
(1) decide that no further action is required and discharge the referral;
(2) adjourn the case pending further investigations;
(3) if they consider that the child is in need of compulsory measures of care, make a supervision requirement (as to which, see paragraph 58 below).
(g) Supervision requirements
A supervision requirement makes the local authority responsible for the care of the child in accordance with the requirement and gives them the necessary powers to exercise this responsibility. It does not, however, formally vest in them any parental rights of custody and does not take away parental rights. Those rights are subject to the supervisory requirements and, so far as inconsistent with those requirements, they cannot be exercised.
Thus, the right of custody cannot be exercised where a supervision requirement has required a child to live in foster care. The Court of Session has indicated in the case of Aitken v. Aitken ( Session Cases 297) that while such a supervision requirement subsists it would be possible for them to award a person custody of the child, but this award would have effect subject to the supervision requirement and the person could not exercise actual custody while the supervision requirement subsisted.
As regards access, the children’s hearing is entitled to attach conditions as to access when making or continuing a supervision requirement (see Kennedy v. A.  Scots Law Times 358). In the absence of any express condition, the parents will be given reasonable access. However, a local authority has the competence to terminate access where that is appropriate in pursuance of their duty under section 20 of the 1968 Act (see paragraph 45 above). The Court of Session has made it clear, in the case of Dewar v. Strathclyde Regional Council ( Session Cases 102), that the courts will not adjudicate on questions of access between the parents and the local authority. If a parent is dissatisfied with the decision of a local authority as to access, it is appropriate for him or her to apply to a children’s hearing to regulate the matter by attaching a condition as to access to the supervision requirement. An appeal to the courts will then lie against the decision of the children’s hearing.
(a) at any time if the local authority consider that it should cease to have effect or be varied;
(b) within one year, otherwise it will cease automatically to have effect;
(c) at the request of the child or his or her parent, after the expiry of these periods -
(i) three months from imposition of the requirement;
(ii) three months from any variation of the requirement of review;
(iii) six months from any other review (section 48 (4) of the 1968 Act).
The Reporter must make the necessary arrangements for such revision hearings. On review the children’s hearing may terminate, continue or vary the requirement (sections 47 (1) and 48 of the 1968 Act).
(h) Appeal against a decision of a children’s hearing
The Reporter has the duty to ensure that all reports and statements available to the children’s hearing along with reports of the proceedings of the children’s hearings and their reasons for their decisions are lodged with the clerk to the Sheriff Court. These documents are not made available to the parents as a matter of practice.
The appeal is heard in chambers, in the interest of the child. The Sheriff must first hear the appellant or his representative and any safeguarder appointed. Where an irregularity in the conduct of the case is alleged, unless the facts are admitted by the Reporter, the Sheriff must hear evidence tendered by or on behalf of the appellant and the Reporter as to the irregularity. The Sheriff will then proceed to question, if he thinks fit, the Reporter and the authors or compilers of any reports and statements before him. He can call for further reports and statements where he thinks that this may help him. The child and parents and safeguarder are normally entitled to be present throughout.
(a) where the appeal is against a warrant for detention, he may recall the warrant;
(b) in any other case, he has the choice of remitting the case to the children’s hearing for reconsideration or else of discharging the child from any further proceedings arising from those grounds of referral (section 49 (5) of the 1968 Act).
C. Adoption procedure in Scotland
Before making the order the court must be satisfied as regards each parent or guardian of the child that either
(a) he or she freely, and with full understanding of what is involved, agrees generally and unconditionally to the making of an adoption order; or
(b) his or her agreement to making the adoption order should be dispensed with on a number of specified grounds, which include the ground that the parent or guardian is withholding agreement unreasonably (section 16 (2) of the 1978 Act).
For the purposes of the 1978 Act the natural father of a child born out of wedlock would not be a "parent" or "guardian" except where he has subsequently married the mother or has a parental-rights order in his favour.
The effect of an order freeing the child for adoption is to vest parental rights and duties in the adoption agency (that is, a local authority or an approved adoption society) and to extinguish existing parental rights. After freeing for adoption, the child will normally live for a time with the prospective adopters and then they will seek an adoption order.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION
(a) unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (art. 8) of the Convention;
(b) by eleven votes to two, that there had been no violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in respect of the first applicant;
(c) unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in respect of the second applicant;
(d) unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 14 (art. 14) in respect of the first applicant.
The full text of the Commission’s opinion and of the two separate opinions contained in the report is reproduced as an annex to this judgment1.
FINAL SUBMISSIONS TO THE COURT
"(1) that there has been no violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention in respect of the first applicant;
(2) that there has been no violation of Article 8 (art. 8) of the Convention in respect of the first applicant;
(3) that no separate issue arises under Article 8 (art. 8) of the Convention in respect of the second applicant; and
(4) that there has been no violation of Article 14 (art. 14) of the Convention in respect of the first applicant".
"(primo) Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, whose terms are referred to and founded upon and are to effect that in this case the non-access to information contravenes said Article (art. 6), et
(secundo) Article 8 (art. 8) of said Convention, whose terms are referred to and founded upon in respect of private [and] family life et cetera, [and which] in this case is also contravened".
AS TO THE LAW
I. SCOPE OF THE CASE BEFORE THE COURT AND ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE
By the time the local authority’s petition was heard by the Sheriff Court (between 18 June and 27 July 1990) the first applicant had obtained parental rights in respect of A. by virtue of his marriage on 24 April 1990 to the second applicant (see paragraphs 31 to 33 above). The documentary evidence before the Sheriff Court was disclosed to the applicants, who both participated in the proceedings as parties, the second applicant being represented by a solicitor (see paragraph 33 above). The order of the Sheriff freeing A. for adoption was upheld by the Court of Session on appeal by the applicants, who had persisted in their appeal despite legal advice that it had no prospects of success at all (see paragraphs 34 to 37 above).
In the light of the Court’s finding in relation to the care proceedings (see paragraph 84 below) and to the fact that full disclosure of relevant documents was made in the later adoption proceedings themselves, the Court does not consider it necessary to rule whether the scope of the case as referred to the Court also extends to this complaint.
The Court notes that such "new" material as is included in the Government’s memorial takes the form either of further particulars as to the facts underlying the complaints declared admissible by the Commission or of legal argument relating to those facts. The Court is not precluded from taking cognisance of this material in so far as it is judged to be pertinent (see Rule 41 para. 1 of Rules of Court A).
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 (art. 6-1) OF THE CONVENTION
"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law ..."
A. Applicability of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)
1. Second applicant
On the basis of its established case-law, the Court likewise sees no cause to differ from the Commission’s conclusion (see, for example, the W. v. the United Kingdom judgment of 8 July 1987, Series A no. 121-A, p. 35, para. 78).
2. First applicant
As a consequence, as noted by the Commission, although the first applicant played an active role as the second applicant’s representative, he was not, and could not be, a party along with her in the care proceedings before the children’s hearings in the period before their marriage in April 1990 (see paragraphs 10, 15, 21, 24, 26, 29 and 32 above). Similarly, the appeals from the children’s hearing to the Sheriff Court were, and could only be, brought by the second applicant (see paragraphs 17, 27 and 61 above).
In these circumstances, the Court agrees with the Commission’s reasoning: even to the extent that the first applicant could claim "civil rights" under Scots law in respect of the child A. (see, inter alia, the above-mentioned W. v. the United Kingdom judgment, pp. 32-35, paras. 72-79), the care proceedings in question did not involve the determination of any of those rights, since he had not taken the requisite prior step of seeking to obtain legal recognition of his status as a father. In this respect the present case is to be distinguished from the case of Keegan v. Ireland (judgment of 26 May 1994, Series A no. 290).
B. Compliance with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)
1. The children’s hearing
The Court for its part does not consider it necessary to resolve this disputed issue in the present case, having regard to the conclusions at which it has arrived as concerns the compliance with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the care proceedings taken as a whole (see paragraph 84 below).
As explained by the Government, the function of determining what measures of care would be in the best interest of the child has been conferred on the children’s hearing rather than the ordinary courts because the legislature believed that this function is likely to be exercised more successfully by an adjudicatory body of three specially trained persons with substantial experience of children, following a procedure which is less formal and confrontational than that of the ordinary courts. The Court accepts that in this sensitive domain of family law there may be good reasons for opting for an adjudicatory body that does not have the composition or procedures of a court of law of the classic kind (see, mutatis mutandis, the X v. the United Kingdom judgment of 5 November 1981, Series A no. 46, p. 23, para. 53). Nevertheless, notwithstanding the special characteristics of the adjudication to be made, as a matter of general principle the right to a fair - adversarial - trial "means the opportunity to have knowledge of and comment on the observations filed or evidence adduced by the other party" (see the Ruiz-Mateos v. Spain judgment of 23 June 1993, Series A no. 262, p. 25, para. 63). In the context of the present case, the lack of disclosure of such vital documents as social reports is capable of affecting the ability of participating parents not only to influence the outcome of the children’s hearing in question but also to assess their prospects of making an appeal to the Sheriff Court.
2. The Sheriff Court
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 8 (art. 8) OF THE CONVENTION
"1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
"[W]hat ... has to be determined is whether, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case and notably the serious nature of the decisions to be taken, the parents have been involved in the decision-making process, seen as a whole, to a degree sufficient to provide them with the requisite protection of their interests. If they have not, there will have been a failure to respect their family life and the interference resulting from the decision will not be capable of being regarded as ‘necessary’ within the meaning of Article 8 (art. 8)." (see the above-mentioned W. v. the United Kingdom judgment, pp. 28 and 29, paras. 62 and 64)
In the second place, the Government maintained that in so far as the non-disclosure to the second applicant of documents before the children’s hearing was held to have rendered the procedure unfair and infringed her rights under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1), it was unnecessary to examine the same complaint under Article 8 (art. 8) as no separate issue arose.
In the particular circumstances, the Court considers that it would not reflect the reality of the situation to draw the distinction advocated by the Government between the two members of the applicant couple.
As regards the instant case, the facts complained of had repercussions not only on the conduct of judicial proceedings to which the second applicant was a party, but also on "a fundamental element of [the] family life" of the two applicants (see paragraph 86 above). In the present case the Court judges it appropriate to examine the facts also under Article 8 (art. 8).
The Court, taking note of this concession, finds that in this respect the decision-making process determining the custody and access arrangements in regard to A. did not afford the requisite protection of the applicants’ interests as safeguarded by Article 8 (art. 8). Having regard to the approach taken in the present judgment in regard to the treatment of the applicants’ complaint under Article 8 (art. 8) (see paragraph 90 above), the Court does not deem it appropriate to draw any material distinction between the two applicants as regards the extent of the violation found, despite some differences in their legal circumstances.
IV. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 14 OF THE CONVENTION TAKEN TOGETHER WITH ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 AND/OR ARTICLE 8 (art. 14+6-1, art. 14+8)
"The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status."
In his submission, he had been discriminated against as a natural father contrary to Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 6 para. 1 and/or Article 8 (art. 14+6-1, art. 14+8), in that prior to his marriage to the second applicant he had no legal right to custody of A. or to participate in the care proceedings.
Mr McMichael was therefore in a less advantageous position under the law than a married father. It is to be noted however that, even after the mother had recognised him as the father of A. in February 1988 (see paragraph 18 above), he never sought an order for parental rights, which would have allowed him the status of a party, together with Mrs McMichael, in the care proceedings.
As the Commission remarked, "it is axiomatic that the nature of the relationships of natural fathers with their children will inevitably vary, from ignorance and indifference at one end of the spectrum to a close stable relationship indistinguishable from the conventional matrimonial-based family unit at the other" (paragraph 126 of the report). As explained by the Government, the aim of the relevant legislation, which was enacted in 1986, is to provide a mechanism for identifying "meritorious" fathers who might be accorded parental rights, thereby protecting the interests of the child and the mother. In the Court’s view, this aim is legitimate and the conditions imposed on natural fathers for obtaining recognition of their parental role respect the principle of proportionality. The Court therefore agrees with the Commission that there was an objective and reasonable justification for the difference of treatment complained of.
V. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 50 (art. 50) OF THE CONVENTION
"If the Court finds that a decision or a measure taken by a legal authority or any other authority of a High Contracting Party is completely or partially in conflict with the obligations arising from the ... Convention, and if the internal law of the said Party allows only partial reparation to be made for the consequences of this decision or measure, the decision of the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party."
A. Non-pecuniary damage
In the alternative, they submitted that a reasonable award should be appreciably less than that made in the other children cases referred to.
B. Other relief
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT
1. Holds unanimously that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the applicants’ complaints directed against the taking of A. into care, the termination of access to A. and the freeing of A. for adoption;
2. Holds unanimously that it is not necessary to rule whether it has jurisdiction to entertain the applicants’ complaint relating to the fairness of the adoption proceedings;
3. Holds unanimously that Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention has no application to the first applicant’s complaint;
4. Holds unanimously that there has been a violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention in respect of the second applicant;
5. Holds by six votes to three that there has been a violation of Article 8 (art. 8) of the Convention in respect of the first applicant;
6. Holds unanimously that there has been a violation of Article 8 (art. 8) of the Convention in respect of the second applicant;
7. Holds unanimously that there has been no violation of Article 14 of the Convention, whether taken together with Article 6 para. 1 or Article 8 (art. 14+6-1, art. 14+8), in respect of the first applicant;
8. Holds unanimously that the respondent State is to pay to the applicants jointly, within three months, £8,000 (eight thousand pounds sterling) in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
9. Rejects unanimously the remainder of the claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 24 February 1995.
In accordance with Article 51 para. 2 (art. 51-2) of the Convention and Rule 53 para. 2 of Rules of Court A, the joint partly dissenting opinion of Mr Ryssdal, Mrs Palm and Sir John Freeland is annexed to this judgment.
JOINT PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGES RYSSDAL, PALM AND Sir John FREELAND
It is true that, unlike the mother of A., he could not automatically become a party to the care proceedings despite her recognition of him as the father of the child. However, the requirement for natural fathers, even ones in circumstances such as those of Mr McMichael, to obtain recognition of their parental rights before being able to take part in care proceedings has an objective and reasonable justification; the aim of the relevant legislative provisions is legitimate and the conditions imposed on natural fathers for obtaining recognition of their parental role respect the principle of proportionality. These were the Court’s conclusions when unanimously rejecting Mr McMichael’s claim of discrimination under Article 14 (art. 14) of the Convention (see paragraph 98 of the judgment). Indeed in his case this requirement would not appear to have been onerous. As the judgment points out in the context of his claim under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1), at least as from 18 February 1988 an application by him for an order for parental rights would have been dealt with speedily - and presumably without difficulty - given the mother’s consent (see paragraph 77 of the judgment).
1 The case is numbered 51/1993/446/525. The first number is the case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the relevant year (second number). The last two numbers indicate the case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications to the Commission.
2 Rules A apply to all cases referred to the Court before the entry into force of Protocol No. 9 (P9) and thereafter only to cases concerning States not bound by that Protocol (P9). They correspond to the Rules that came into force on 1 January 1983, as amended several times subsequently.
1 Note by the Registrar: for practical reasons this annex will appear only with the printed version of the judgment (volume 307-B of Series A of the Publications of the Court), but a copy of the Commission's report is available from the registry.