A mother convicted of neglecting her children has won the backing of Strasbourg judges who had agreed that Malta had breached protection of family life laws.
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of M.D. and Others v. Malta (application no. 64791/10), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial – access to a court) and Article 8 (protection of family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court held that Malta was to pay each applicant 4,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage and EUR 5,500 to the mother for costs and expenses.
The case concerned the inability of a mother and her children to challenge a care order and the subsequent automatic and permanent removal of the mother’s parental rights following her criminal conviction for neglect of her children, and the impossibility for her to challenge that measure before a tribunal.
The Court found that the Article 6 rights of the mother and children were breached because they could not challenge the care order, even if the circumstances changed, and that the mother’s Article 8 rights were breached because she had been automatically and permanently deprived of parental rights after her conviction.
It also held under Article 46 (binding force and implementation of judgments), without prejudice to any general measures required to prevent any similar violations in future, that the Maltese authorities had to provide for a procedure allowing the mother the possibility to request an independent and impartial tribunal to assess whether the removal of her parental rights had been justified.
It further recommended that Malta take general measures to ensure an effective access to court for persons who have been affected by a care order.