Court/Judicial body: European Court of Human Rights
Citation: Application no. 22430/93
Date: 9 June 1998
Instrument(s) cited:European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life
In 1987, Sanremo Social Service informed the relevant authorities that Ms. S.B. had been neglecting her daughter (S). The Youth Court made ordered that the child be taken into care, and she was placed in a children’s home after substantial delays. Ms. S.B. was hospitalised for psychiatric care following this decision and subsequently absconded with her daughter. Ms. S.B and her daughter were found in 1990 and the Youth Court ordered that the child be placed up for adoption. Ms. S.B successfully appealed to the Court of Cassation, but when the Youth Court made subsequent decisions with a view to returning S to her mother, the child expressed a desire to remain with her foster family. The Youth Court ordered visitation rights for the parents and grandparents, but later revoked the parents rights in response to the distress that it was causing S. Legal proceedings were ongoing as of 1998 and S’s grandparents brought this case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR found that there was no violation of the Article 8 right to private and family life. In reaching this decision, it was not disputed that the family rights of the parents and grandparents had been subject to interference, and that the decision to prevent the parents access to S, and limit that of the grandparents, was carried out in accordance with the law. The ECHR further considered that the national courts acted with the legitimate aim of protecting S. In deciding whether the interference with the grandparents rights to family life was conducted in a way “necessary in a democratic society”, the court noted that the delay in reaching a decision as to the care of S had been protracted. However, in light of the fact that at relevant junctures the courts had sought the advice of psychiatrists and social workers, in giving weight to S’s expressed desire to remain with her foster parents, and in light of the fact that S’s relatives had exhausted all domestic remedies, the ECHR considered that the State had struck an appropriate balance between the rights of S and her biological family.
Link to full judgement: Available through http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/search.asp?skin=hudoc-en