Judgement 23851/20 24360/20

Applicant name X and others
Applicant type Natural person (immigrant)
Number of applicants 4
Country Ireland
Application no. 23851/20 24360/20
Date 22/06/2023
Judges Lado Chanturia, President,
 Síofra O’Leary,
 Mārtiņš Mits,
 Stéphanie Mourou-Vikström,
 María Elósegui,
 Kateřina Šimáčková,
 Mykola Gnatovskyy,
Institution Court
Type Judgment
Outcome Art. 8 No violation Article 8 + Article 14 ECHR
Reason Not applicable ratione materiae
Type of privacy Economic privacy; Relational privacy
Keywords Ratione materiae; de minimis
Facts of the caseIn its judgment, the Court merges two cases. In the first, a women seeks asylum in Ireland but is rejected. She begets a child with an Irish farther. She seeks child support, but again, her claim is rejected. The father can’t seek support because the child does not live with him. At a later point in time, she was granted the right to reside and she did receive child benefit. In the second case, a family came to Ireland and was rejected in its request for asylum. A request for child benefit was also rejected. Later, they were allowed stay in Ireland and a second application for child benefit was granted. The applicants complained of a violation of Article 14 + Article 8 and Article 14 + Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
AnalysisThis case is relevant for the various complicated issues concerning its admissibility:
1. The first question is whether the time-limit had been respected. The ECtHR finds that although the complaints were brought before the Court outside the official time frame, the slight delay was acceptable in light of the Covid19-pandemic.
2. There is discussion about whether the de minimis standard was met in this case. The Court finds that the severity of a violation should be assessed taking account of both the applicant’s subjective perceptions and what is objectively at stake. Importantly, it points out that even if the applicants had not suffered from significant harm, the ECtHR may decide to continue its evaluation if it is convinced that the case requires an examination on the merits. Before the entry into force of Protocol 15 in 2021, the Court had to take into account as well whether the case had been duly considered at domestic level. After its entry into force, the Court may declare an application inadmissible on the ground of non‑significant disadvantage, even if it has not been duly considered by a domestic body. The applicants in this case, the Court points out, challenged the basis on which they were deemed ineligible for child benefit so as to obtain retrospective payment of that allowance in respect of the relevant periods. Their claims are thus of a pecuniary nature. In so far as that constitutes harm, the government had later paid in full the benefits initially refused. Thus, the disadvantage, even if it was significant enough for the purposes of the Convention, no longer existed. ‘This view is further confirmed by the fact that the applicants were not exposed to financial hardship at the material time, as they were in receipt of State support via the system of direct provision.  The Court must next determine whether respect for human rights requires an examination of the merits of these applications. It recalls that this would apply where a case raises questions of a general character affecting the observance of the Convention, for instance whether there is a need to clarify the States’ obligation under the Convention or to induce the respondent State to resolve a structural deficiency. There are two considerations that plead in favour of examining these applications. First, in the domestic proceedings references were made to this Court’s Niedzwiecki judgment. As that judgment could be regarded as having been superseded by Beeler v. Switzerland, the Court considers that its examination of this case may serve to further clarify the requirements of the Convention regarding this particular area of social welfare. Second, a number of similar applications are currently pending before the Court, awaiting the resolution of the present case. According to the applicants, similar applications have been adjourned at the domestic level pending this Court’s ruling on the issues raised. As respect for human rights should be understood as encompassing the good administration of justice by the Court, this is an additional reason to proceed with the examination of these applications. The Government’s preliminary objection is therefore rejected (§64-65)’. Thus, rather than finding that the claims of applicants constituted serious offences which merited a substantive evaluation, the ECtHR takes these matters instrumentally to expand its jurisprudence in this area.
3. With respect to their claims under Article 1 first Protocol, the ECtHR points out that parents could receive child benefit, not children. Two of the applicants in  the case before the ECtHR being children, the Court finds that their claims are to be declared inadmissible ratione peronae.
4. As to the applicability of Article 8 ECHR, the findings of the Court is even more interesting. The ECtHR has been criticized for a long time for two things. First that its holistic approach to human rights means that the lines between the various provision and their material scope had become increasingly blurred, mixed and incomprehensible. Second, that the Court had given such a wide material scope to the provisions in the Convention  that the difference between a ‘normal’ right and a human right had almost disappeared. Exemplary to both points was the ECtHR’s jurisprudence on Article 8 ECHR. For some time, the Court has been mindful of both points and tried to provide more clarity as well as, although very marginally, restrict some of the more excessive interpretations of the right to privacy it had provided in its earlier jurisprudence. This case builds on that trend and is quite unique in how explicit the ECtHR is about its project of limiting the scope of Article 8 ECHR. In this case, it makes clear that it does not consider that child benefit would or could have been of such significance that the applicants would have organised the key aspects of their daily life, at least partially, on the strength of it. The Court emphasises that the authorities accommodated the applicants throughout their stay and that the period in which the applicants were denied benefits was relatively short. That is why the ECtHR rejects this part of the claim ratione materiae.
5. Finally, with regard to the one part the Court does declare admissible, the claims of the mothers under Article 14 ECHR + Article 1 Protocol 1, the ECtHR finds that no violation of the Convention had taken place
Other Article violation? No violation Article 1 Protocol 1 + Article 14 ECHR
Damage awarded
Documents Judgment