The lack of a statement of reasons for judicial decisions and the non-judicial investigation of complaints concerning individual and family life constitute a violation of Article 8 of the ECHR!

JUDGMENT

A.T. v. Estonia 13.11.2018 (no. 23183/15)

see here

SUMMARY 

Reasoning of court rulings. Judicial examination of allegations of violation of private and family life. The role of the courts.

Visits of a dangerous patient in a hospital with handcuffs and legs. The ECtHR considered that because of his  history (violent, aggressive, etc.) handcuffing did not violate the necessary measure and therefore no violation of Articles 3 and 8 of the ECHR is found.

Second visit by the applicant to his newborn daughter in a hospital facing health problems during which the same precautions were taken. He complains that they did not let him touch his child and the guards remained with him all the time listening to his conversation with his daughter’s doctors.

The role of the national courts, due to the positive obligations arising from Article 8, is also to investigate the relevant facts and to take reasoned decisions on complaints and complaints concerning private and family life. Unreasonable judgments and non-judicial investigation of the alleged facts of the visit to the applicant’s daughter.

Infringement of this part of Article 8 of the ECHR

PROVISIONS

Article 3

Article 8

PRINCIPAL FACTS 

The applicant, A.T., is an Estonian national who was born in 1977. He is currently serving a life
sentence in prison.

The case concerned his complaint about the security arrangements for medical examinations outside
prison and for a hospital visit he made to his baby daughter.

The applicant has been serving his prison sentence in X Prison since 2008. In November 2010 and
October 2011 he was taken to hospital for medical examinations. After a risk assessment, the prison
authorities decided that he had to wear handcuffs and ankle cuffs. He stated that prison officers
remained in the examination room with him, that they could overhear his conversation with medical
staff and that he had not been allowed to wear his own clothes.

He was also taken to visit his seriously ill newborn daughter in hospital in January 2012, which
included the same security measures. He states that he was prevented from touching his child and
the officers remained with him all the time, being able to overhear his conversation with his
daughter’s doctors.

The applicant complained about the security arrangements for the visits but in January 2013 the
Tartu Administrative Court dismissed his complaint in full. His appeal was rejected.

Relying in particular on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right
to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence) of the European Convention on
Human Rights, the applicant complained about the security arrangements which had been put in
place for his hospital visits. He also complained about certain aspects of the visit to his daughter,
under in particular Article 8.

THE DECISION OF THE COURT

 I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLES 3 AND 8 OF THE CONVENTION AS REGARDS THE SECURITY REQUIREMENTS OF HOSPITAL VISITS FOR MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS OF THE APPLICANT

Handcuffing does not normally give rise to an issue under Article 3 of the Convention where the measure has been imposed in connection with a lawful detention and does not entail the use of force, or public exposure, exceeding what is reasonably considered necessary. In this regard, it is important to consider, for instance, the danger of the person’s absconding or causing injury or damage.

 According to the Court’s case-law, the notion of “private life” is a broad one and is not susceptible to exhaustive definition; it may, depending on the circumstances, cover the moral and physical integrity of the person The Court further recognises that these aspects of the concept extend to situations of deprivation of liberty. Moreover, it does not exclude the possibility that there might be circumstances in which Article 8 could be regarded as affording a protection in relation to conditions during detention which do not attain the level of severity required by Article 3 .

 Personal information relating to a patient belongs to his or her private life. The protection of personal data, not least medical data, is of fundamental importance to a person’s enjoyment of his or her right to respect for private and family life as guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention.

The Court is mindful of the confidentiality concern and the distress caused by the presence of the prison officers during the hospital visits. Prisoners have, in the context of the right to private life, the right to medical confidentiality , which should not be encroached upon, unless it is necessary in the specific circumstances of the case. Although there is no dispute in the present case that the prison officers accompanied the applicant during the visits, including during his examinations, the parties disagree as to whether there was a screen between the prison officers and the applicant during his medical examinations and whether the prison officers were able to overhear his conversations with the doctors. However, the Court does not find it necessary to determine the exact details of the applicant’s visits to hospitals as it considers that – given the particular circumstances of the instant case.

As regards the other complaints, the Court finds that there is no evidence to corroborate the applicant’s statement that the escorting prison officers carried their firearms and special equipment in a particularly demonstrative manner. Nor can the obligation to wear prison clothing be considered a disproportionate interference with the applicant’s private life  In any event, there is no evidence to suggest that the applicant was particularly or intentionally exposed to the public during the visits.

 In conclusion, taking into account the domestic authorities’ case-specific, thorough and convincing risk assessment of the applicant when applying the security measures, the Court finds that the application of those measures did not entail the use of force, or public exposure, exceeding what could reasonably be considered necessary and thus did not lead to a violation of Article 3. The Court also considers that such measures were necessary for ensuring public safety and protecting the rights and freedoms of others. Accordingly, there has been no violation of 8 of the Convention.

II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLES 6 AND 8 AS REGARDS CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE APPLICANT’S VISIT TO SEE HIS DAUGHTER

 

The Court finds that the prison authorities, who were in daily contact with the applicant and who were well aware of the risk he might pose, decided to order the use of above-mentioned security measures after careful consideration and gave sound reasons for their decisions. The applicant did not challenge the relevant risk assessment, but argued that since he had never tried to escape, less restrictive measures could have been used. However, the aim of the security measures was not only to avoid a possible escape, but also to avoid potential harm to other people as well as to the applicant himself. Against that background, the Court finds that the security measures were directly linked to the applicant’s specific behaviour and, as such, did not exceed what could be reasonably considered necessary.

 Furthermore, the Court notes that in the instant case no health-related reasons could be ascertained that would cast doubt on the use of measures of restraint – the applicant was a young man without any particular health concerns which could have rendered the use of cuffing excessive or contraindicated . Although the handcuffs and ankle cuffs left pressure marks, abrasions and redness on the skin of the applicant, it cannot be concluded from this that excessive force was used when applying them. The Court is also not convinced by the applicant’s allegation that the hospital visits under the described conditions adversely affected his mental state, leading him to self-harm. Although the applicant’s long history of self-harm is, in itself, a matter of concern  there is no evidence to suggest that a causal link existed between the visits and him harming himself.

65. The Court is mindful of the confidentiality concern and the distress caused by the presence of the prison officers during the hospital visits. Prisoners have, in the context of the right to private life, the right to medical confidentiality which should not be encroached upon, unless it is necessary in the specific circumstances of the case. Although there is no dispute in the present case that the prison officers accompanied the applicant during the visits, including during his examinations, the parties disagree as to whether there was a screen between the prison officers and the applicant during his medical examinations and whether the prison officers were able to overhear his conversations with the doctors. However, the Court does not find it necessary to determine the exact details of the applicant’s visits to hospitals as it considers that – given the particular circumstances of the instant case.

As regards the other complaints, the Court finds that there is no evidence to corroborate the applicant’s statement that the escorting prison officers carried their firearms and special equipment in a particularly demonstrative manner. Nor can the obligation to wear prison clothing be considered a disproportionate interference with the applicant’s private life. In any event, there is no evidence to suggest that the applicant was particularly or intentionally exposed to the public during the visits.

In conclusion, taking into account the domestic authorities’ case-specific, thorough and convincing risk assessment of the applicant when applying the security measures, the Court finds that the application of those measures did not entail the use of force, or public exposure, exceeding what could reasonably be considered necessary and thus did not lead to a violation of Article 3. The Court also considers that such measures were necessary for ensuring public safety and protecting the rights and freedoms of others. Accordingly, there has been no violation of 8 of the Convention.

No violation of Article 3 – concerning the security measures during A.T.’s visits to hospital

No violation of Article 8 – concerning the security measures during A.T.’s visits to hospital

Violation of Article 8 – concerning A.T.’s visit to see his daughter in hospital

Just satisfaction: 1,500 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage)(echrcaselaw.com editing). 


ECHRCaseLaw

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