(European Court of Human Rights; 21 November 2006)
Following a report from a cousin that she, the child and others had been sexually abused by the child's aunt and uncle, the child was taken into public care. Medical examinations confirmed that there had been sexual abuse. On the basis of evidence that the father had been directly involved in the abuse and that the mother was incapable of protecting child, contact between the family and the child was suspended. The father was initially convicted, with 17 others, of sexually abusing underage children, but was later acquitted on appeal; the convictions of the aunt and uncle had been upheld. Contact between the mother and the child had been suspended for over 3 years; the mother now had contact about six times a year in the presence of social workers. The brother's applications for contact with the child had been dismissed, and his application for custody of the child had been rejected. The child, now living with foster parents, was unwilling to see more of the mother. The mother and brother argued that their Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (European Convention) right to respect for private and family life had been breached.
There had been no violation of Art 8 of the European Convention in relation to the removal of the child from the family home and her placement in care, which had been proportionate and necessary in order to protect the child's health and rights. However, there had been a violation of Art 8 on account of the prolonged suspension of contact and the unsatisfactory arrangements for meetings. Any placement in public care was in principle to be considered a temporary measure, to be suspended as soon as circumstances made that possible, and was to be implemented with a view to reuniting the parent and child concerned.