(European Court of Human Rights, 10 January 2017)
Private law children – Contact – Art 8, European Convention – Father had communication difficulties due to hearing and speech impairment – Contact reduced in part due to difficulties – Whether there had been a breach of Art 8, European Convention
The European Court of Human Rights found that there had been a breach of the father’s Art 8, European Convention rights.
The parents and their 10-year-old son were hearing impaired. The father was also mute and could only communicate via sign language. The parents’ relationship broke down within a year of the child’s birth and contact between the father and son was ordered on an interim basis three times per week.
The father failed to stick to the contact schedule and on the basis of an expert report contact was reduced to four times each month. The father’s application to change contact to permit weekend staying contact away from the mother’s home was refused on the basis of communication difficulties and the relationship between the father and son being weak in comparison to that of the mother and son. The father’s appeal was dismissed. In a subsequent judgment his parental authority over the child was limited and his appeal was dismissed.
The father applied to the European Court of Human Rights alleging a breach of Art 8 of the European Convention.The court held that there had been a breach of Art 8 and the father was awarded €16,250 in respect of non-pecuniary damages plus €698 in respect of costs and expenses. The father had an incontestable right to contact with his son and despite the intractable dispute between the parents and the disabilities of the father and his son the domestic authorities had an obligation to take all appropriate steps that could reasonably be demanded to facilitate contact. In this instance additional measures should have been taken to take into account the father’s situation both in relation to the hostile relationship between the parents and the communication barriers.