AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
by Bonitto LAWRENCE
against the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 2 September 2008 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 21 November 2001,
Having regard to the partial decision of 8 April 2003,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Bonitto Lawrence, is a British national who was born in 1937 and lives in London. He was represented before the Court by Ms R. White, a welfare rights worker in London. 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 7 March 2001. In June 2001, the applicant made a claim for widows’ benefits, namely Widow’s Pension. On 5 September 2001 the applicant was informed that his claim had been disallowed as he was not a woman. The applicant did not appeal as he considered or was advised that such a remedy would be bound to fail since no such social security benefit was payable to widowers under United Kingdom law.
B. Relevant domestic law
The domestic law relevant to this application is set out in Runkee and White v. the United Kingdom, no. 42949/98, §§ 40-41, 25 July 2007.
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.
Regarding Widow’s Pension (“WP”), the Court held in its lead judgment that at its origin, and until its abolition in respect of women whose spouses died after 9 April 2001, WP was intended to correct “factual inequalities” between older widows, as a group, and the rest of the population and that this difference in treatment was reasonably and objectively justified. Moreover, the Court considered that the United Kingdom could not be criticised for not having abolished WP earlier and that it was not unreasonable of the legislature to decide to introduce the reform slowly (see Runkee and White, cited above, §§ 40-41). The Court, consequently, considering it was not necessary to examine separately the complaint in respect of Article 8, did not find a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 in respect of the non-payment to the applicants of Widow’s Pension or equivalent (ibid § 42).
Consequently, the complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares inadmissible the remainder of the application.
Fatoş Aracı Lech Garlicki
Deputy Registrar President