(European Court of Human Rights, 28 April 2016)
Private law children – Contact – Suspension – Art 8, European ConventionThe European Court of Human Rights held by four votes to three that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the European Convention.
The unmarried mother and father separated shortly after the child's birth in 2003. The child had since lived with the mother who had sole parental responsibility. The parents had throughout the child's life been in conflict about contact arrangements but they initially agreed to the father having supervised contact. In 2008 the court suspended contact for a one year period. After the end of the suspension period interim contact was ordered on a fortnightly basis, but that did not take place. Once again, at the mother's request, contact was suspended.
In 2011 at a final hearing, in reliance of the opinion of a psychiatrist, the court suspended contact indefinitely, as that was considered the least damaging option. The child was found to be suffering as a result of the conflict between her parents. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision.
The father now applied to the Court of Human Rights, alleging that the indefinite suspension of contact with his child amounted to a violation of Art 8 of the European Convention.
There could be no dispute that the suspension of contact constituted a breach of Art 8. The decision to suspend contact was based on considerations relating to the child's welfare. The decision-making process relied on detailed and extensive information from assessments and expert opinion. The process was fair and afforded respect to those involved. In this instance, the decision to suspend contact did not overstep the margin of appreciation afforded to the domestic courts in matters concerning a parent's contact with his or her child, and could still be regarded as necessary in a democratic society. There had, accordingly, been no violation of Art 8.
CASE OF BUCHLEITHER v. GERMANY
(Application no. 20106/13)
28 April 2016