M. v. United Kingdom

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The applicant, a mental health patient, brought action against the Secretary of State for Health alleging violations of Articles 8 (private life), 13 (ineffective remedy) and 46.1 (failure to change law) of the European Convention on human Rights when she was without power to change or even make objections to the identity of her ’nearest relative’ as defined by the Act of 1983, who would be privy to her confidential information.

Applicant’s ’nearest relative’ within the meaning of the 1983 Act had sexually abused her in the past and under the law became privileged to confidential information. Because in her case a third party could not apply for a change in the ’nearest relative’ assignment, her right to private life had been violated. The only remedy offered was a declaration of incompatibility without a consequence of pecuniary compensation or change in the law, thus ineffective according to Article 13 of Convention. Finally, applicant complained of Article 46.1 violation due to a failure to change the law pursuant to a friendly settlement of a case relating to the ’nearest relative’ issue.

The government offered a friendly settlement. It agreed to change the law according to the previous friendly settlement case regarding the same issue and offered pecuniary damages to the applicant, who accepted. The case was settled.

"The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. In particular, it takes note of the governments’ undertaking to rectify the incompatibility identified in their declaration by the prompt enactment of the Mental Health Bill, currently pending before the house of Lords, or the use of a Remedial Order under the Human Rights Act 1998 in the event of any delay to this effect. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds that, in light of the government’s admission and undertaking, no other reason to justify a continued examination of the application (Art. 37(1) in fine of the Convention)."