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RK and AK v the United Kingdom (38000/05)

ECHR judgment in a claim by a couple whose child had been taken into care, who was later diagnosed with brittle bone disease, for breaches of Article 8 and 13 rights. The court found there was a breach of the couple's Article 13 rights.

The applicants, R.K., and his wife, A.K., are British nationals who were born in 1972 and 1976, respectively. They live in Oldham (United Kingdom). They have a daughter, M., who was born in July 1998.

In September 1998 M. was taken to hospital with a fractured femur; doctors concluded that the injury had not been accidental and she was placed in the care of her aunt. Following another injury, M. was diagnosed with brittle bone disease. She was returned home in April 1999. The case concerned the applicants’ complaint that their daughter was placed temporarily in care due to a medical misdiagnosis. They relied on Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy).

It was not disputed that the interim care order had interfered with the applicants’ right to respect for their family life. That interference had been “in accordance with the law” and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting M.. Indeed, the authorities, medical and social, had a duty to protect children and could not be held liable every time genuine and reasonably-held concerns about the safety of children in their families were proved, retrospectively, to have been misguided. The Court considered that M., a three-month old baby, had suffered a serious and unexplained fracture and that the social or medical authorities could not be faulted for not immediately diagnosing brittle bone disease, a very rare and difficult condition to identify in small infants. Moreover, the baby had been placed within her extended family and in close proximity to her parents’ home so that they could frequently and easily visit. As soon as another fracture had occurred outside of the applicants’ care, further tests had been carried out and, within weeks, M. had been returned to her home. The Court was therefore satisfied that the domestic authorities had had relevant and sufficient reasons to take protective measures, which had been proportionate in the circumstances and had given due and timely account to the applicants’ interests. Accordingly, the Court held unanimously that there had been no violation of Article 8.

However, the Court found that the applicants should have had available to them a means to claim that the local authority’s handling of procedures had been responsible for any damage they had suffered and to claim compensation. As such redress had not been available at the relevant time, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 13 and awarded the applicants, jointly, EUR 10,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 18,000 for costs and expenses.

Read the full text of the judgment on the ECHR website