AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
by Liam NUGENT
against the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 24 June 2008 as a Chamber composed of:
Lech Garlicki, President,
Ledi Bianku, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 22 November 2001,
Having regard to the partial decision of 15 October 2002,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Liam Nugent, is a British national who was born in 1946 and lives in County Tyrone. He was represented before the Court by Les Allamby, a lawyer practising in Belfast. The United Kingdom Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr C. Whomersley of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant’s wife died on 25 January 2001, leaving two children born in 1973 and 1977. His claim for widows’ benefits was made on 19 April 2001 and was rejected on 24 May 2001 on the ground that he was not entitled to widows’ benefits because he was not a woman. The applicant did not appeal further as he considered or was advised that such a remedy would be bound to fail since no such social security benefits were payable to widowers under United Kingdom law.
B. Relevant domestic law
The domestic law relevant to this application is set out in Willis v. the United Kingdom, no. 36042/97, §§ 14-26, ECHR 2002-IV.
The applicant complained that British social security legislation discriminated against him on grounds of sex, in breach of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with both Article 8 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
By a letter of 11 May 2005 the respondent Government informed the Court that the House of Lords had decided, in relation to the claims for Widowed Mother’s Allowance (WMA) and Widow’s Payment (WPt), that there was in principle no objective justification at the relevant time for not paying these benefits to widowers as well as widows, but that the Government had a defence under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the HRA). It noted that, in view of this, the multitude of cases before the Court and the fact that the HRA defence was only applicable in the domestic arena, the Government were prepared, in principle, to settle all claims made by widowers against the United Kingdom arising out of the arrangements applicable prior to April 2001 for the payment of WMA and WPt.
By a letter of 7 February the applicant’s representative notified the Court that the applicant wanted to withdraw his complaint in respect of Widow’s Pension (“WP”). Subsequently on 7 April 2008 the applicant’s representative notified the Court that Mr Nugent had reached a friendly settlement agreement and that a payment of GBP 1,000 in respect of his claim for WPt had been accepted and paid. Costs had also been paid as part of a consolidated settlement. By a letter of 11 April 2008 the Registry informed the applicant’s representative that in view of the settlement reached and the fact that there were no outstanding claims, the Court would consider striking the remainder of the application out of its list of cases.
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties in respect of WPt. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention and Rule 62 § 3 of the Rules of Court). In relation to his claim for WP, in the light of the above, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention, the Court considers that the applicant does not intend to pursue the complaint. Furthermore, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention or its Protocols which require the continuation of the examination of the complaint.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the remainder of the application out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Lech Garlicki