Case of European Court of Human Rights, October 22, 1996 (case Stubbings and Others v. the United Kingdom)

Resolution Date:October 22, 1996
SUMMARY

No violation of Art. 6-1 No violation of Art. 8 No violation of Art. 14+6-1 No violation of Art. 14+8

 
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Information Note on the Court’s case-law No.

October 1996

Stubbings and Others v. the United Kingdom - 22083/93 and 22095/93

Judgment 22.10.1996

Article 6

Civil proceedings

Article 6-1

Access to court

Rules on limitation preventing alleged victims of child sexual abuse from commencing civil proceedings: no violation

[This summary is extracted from the Court’s official reports (Series A or Reports of Judgments and Decisions). Its formatting and structure may therefore differ from the Case-Law Information Note summaries.]

I.              ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION

Applicants claimed psychological after-effects of abuse prevented them from realising they had cause of action against abusers until after expiry of applicable limitation period.

Very essence of right to court not impaired because English law of limitation allowed applicants six years from eighteenth birthdays to initiate civil proceedings and criminal prosecution could be brought at any time.

Limitation rules served legitimate aim - ensuring legal certainty and finality - and were proportionate.

At present no uniformity in member States as to date from which limitation periods are reckoned, although possible that States may have to amend rules as awareness of child sexual abuse develops.

Since very essence of right not impaired and restrictions pursued legitimate aim and were proportionate, relevant rules within margin of appreciation allowed to States in regulating access to court.

Conclusion: no violation (seven votes to two).

II.              ARTICLE 8 OF THE CONVENTION

Complaint by only three of four applicants.

States under positive obligation to protect children and others from sexual abuse by providing effective deterrence.

Abuse complained of subject to severe criminal penalties - no obligation to provide unlimited civil remedies in addition.

Conclusion: no violation (unanimously).

III.              ARTICLE 14 OF THE CONVENTION TAKEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH ARTICLES 6 § 1 AND 8

No disparity of treatment between applicants and victims of other forms of deliberate wrongdoing with different psychological after-effects.

Applicants not in analogous situation to victims of negligently inflicted harm.

Even if comparison appropriate, difference in treatment could be reasonably and objectively justified.

Conclusion: no violation (eight votes to one).

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