by Hartje HOUT
against the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 3 February 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 September 2004,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Ms Hartje Hout, is a Dutch national who was born in 1981 and lives in Australia. She was represented before the Court by Mr N. Barnes, of Ashton Allen Barnes, a Guernsey law firm. The United Kingdom Government (“the Government”) were represented by Ms A. Sharif and subsequently by Ms H. Upton of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Agents.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant states that she is the daughter of the late Mr Richard Hugo, a resident of Guernsey who died in 2004. She submitted a written statement by her mother, Ms Paula Hout, affirming that Mr Hugo was her father.
The applicant’s mother and Mr Hugo lived together for a short period in Guernsey in 1980, during which time the applicant was conceived. Her mother then returned to The Netherlands, where the applicant was born. Shortly afterwards, Mr Hugo visited them there. In 1982, the applicant and her mother moved to Australia and took up residence there. The applicant stated that she learned of her father’s identity when she was around eight years old and that she began to correspond with him from that point. In 2000, the applicant and her mother paid a visit to Guernsey and met with Mr Hugo, who had remained single. As evidence of her relationship with Mr Hugo, the applicant submitted photographs of the two of them taken during their meeting in 2000. She also submitted photocopies of their correspondence in the period 2000-2004. Earlier correspondence could no longer be located. The tone of these exchanges is warm and affectionate. While the applicant occasionally addressed Mr Hugo as “Dad”, he signed his letters using his first name.
As indicated in affidavits sworn by two of Mr Hugo’s siblings, submitted by the Government, the Hugo family was aware that he was the father of the applicant, and some of them met her during her visit to the island in 2000.
The applicant planned to visit Mr Hugo again in the summer of 2004, bringing her own son, who was born in Australia in September 2002. Mr Hugo died on 22 March of that year, however, at the age of 59. Having made no will, and having no other issue, his estate (essentially his house and its contents) was distributed among his siblings in accordance with the Guernsey law applicable at that time, which excluded “illegitimate” children from intestate succession (see under “Relevant domestic law” below). The applicant believes that it was her father’s intention that she should be his heir, and produced a statement to this effect by a friend of Mr Hugo. However, in her affidavit, Mr Hugo’s sister stated that in the late 1990s he had said to her that she and the other siblings were to be his heirs.
The applicant maintained that there were no proceedings she could bring in Guernsey to establish a claim to the estate.
The applicant complained under Article 14 of the Convention, taken together with Article 8, that she had suffered discrimination on grounds of her birth status. She further relied on Article 14 taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
By letter of 20 November 2008, the applicant’s representative informed the Court that, following mediation, a friendly settlement had been agreed between the parties, and that he had been instructed by the applicant to withdraw her application.
The Government informed the Court by letter of 28 November 2008 that the States of Guernsey and the applicant had agreed that she should receive a sum in full and final settlement of her claim.
The Court 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).
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Lech Garlicki