Application no. 37344/97
against the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section) sitting on 7 September 1999 as a Chamber composed of
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Sir Nicolas Bratza,
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mr P. Kūris,
Mr W. Fuhrmann,
Mr K. Jungwiert,
Mr K. Traja, Judges,
with Mrs S. Dollé, Section Registrar;
Having regard to Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
Having regard to the application introduced on 29 April 1997 by F.C. against the United Kingdom and registered on 11 August 1997 under file no. 37344/97;
Having regard to the reports provided for in Rule 49 of the Rules of Court;
Decides as follows:
The applicant is a British national, born in 1972 and is currently detained in a psychiatric institution in the United Kingdom. She is represented before the Court by Mr P.J. Kenny, a lawyer practising in Telford. The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
In June 1988 the applicant alleged that she had been sexually abused by her adoptive father. She submits that he admitted the allegation and that she was subsequently awarded compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in that respect. She was then received into the care of the local authority and placed with foster parents.
In June 1994 the applicant was committed to a psychiatric institution as an involuntary patient pursuant to section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (“the 1983 Act”). It appears that, pursuant to section 20 of the 1983 Act, the authority for her detention was renewed in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. The applicant's detention was reviewed on 1 July 1994 by the Mental Health Review Tribunal (“MHRT”) and she was not released. Since the applicant did not subsequently apply for a review of her detention, it also appears that her case was subsequently referred by the managers of the psychiatric institution to the MHRT for a review of her detention pursuant to 68(2) of the 1983 Act.
Pursuant to section 26 of the 1983 Act, the applicant's nearest relative is her adoptive father with whom she has had no contact since 1988 and to whom she does not wish to disclose personal information. In 1994 she applied to the County Court to have the identity of her nearest relative changed. The County Court judge refused her application and, while expressing sympathy with her position, indicated that he had no power to grant the application.
The applicant originally complained under Article 8 of the Convention that her adoptive father (whom she claims sexually abused her) automatically became her nearest relative on committal to the institution, that he consequently had access to personal information about her (including her treatment and whereabouts) and that she was not entitled to apply to have someone else act as her nearest relative.
The application was introduced on 29 April 1997 and registered on 11 August 1997.
On 14 January 1998 the European Commission of Human Rights decided to communicate the application to the respondent Government.
On 1 November 1998, by operation of Article 5 § 2 of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention, the case fell to be examined by the Court in accordance with the provisions of that Protocol.
The applicant complained that her inability to apply to have a person, other than her adoptive father, act as her nearest relative constituted an unjustifiable interference with her private life and she invoked Article 8 which Article, insofar as relevant, provides as follows:
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private ... life ...
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with law and is necessary in a democratic society ... for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Further to the communication of the case by the Commission, the parties requested a number of extensions of the time-limit fixed for the submission of observations on the case on the basis that discussions were taking place between the parties regarding the possible settlement of the matter.
By letter dated 20 April 1999 the applicant informed the Court that the parties had agreed a settlement of the case on the basis of a proposed change in legislation allowing psychiatric detainees to apply to change the person who acts as nearest relative and the payment to the applicant of £2000 in non-pecuniary damage. The applicant also pointed out that her legal costs and expenses had also been agreed and that she had requested that the Government pay those costs within seven days. The applicant later detailed, by letter dated 27 April 1999, the level of the legal costs and expenses agreed (being £4856.52 inclusive of V.A.T.). The Government confirmed, by letter to the Court of 26 April 1999, that the parties had agreed to settle the case on the basis of the above-described proposed change in legislation, a payment of £2000 to the applicant in non-pecuniary damage and of an agreed amount in legal costs and expenses. It was clarified that the proposed legislative change would form part of a more general review by the Government of mental health legislation in the United Kingdom.
By letters dated 21 June and 30 June 1999 the applicant and the Government, respectively, confirmed payment to the applicant of the agreed non-pecuniary damage and to the applicant's representatives of the agreed legal costs and expenses, the applicant also confirming her wish that her case before the Court be withdrawn.
Accordingly, the Court considers that the matter has been resolved within the meaning of Article 37 § 1(b) of the Convention. Furthermore, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 in fine, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention which require the continuation of the examination of the application.
For these reasons, the Court, unanimously,
DECIDES TO STRIKE THE APPLICATION OUT OF ITS LIST OF CASES.
S Dollé J.-P. Costa Registrar President