Petukhova v. Russia

Application No. 28796/07
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Applicant, Petukhova, argued that she was deprived of her liberty when she was forced to have an involuntary examination. She alleged that this violated Article 5 § 1 (b) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“Convention”), which protects the right to liberty and security of person.

In December 2005, Petukhova complained to the police that a gang of neighbors damaged her property and used ‘psychotronic generators’ that damaged her health and mind. In January 2006, the police took statements from Petukhova’s neighbors, who stated that Petukhova had behaved unreasonably and walked naked on the streets. As a result, the police requested the Psychoneurological Outpatient Clinic (POC) of Moscow carry out a psychiatric examination of Petukhova. Petukhova did not submit to a voluntary examination.

The resident psychiatrist at the POC then requested authorization from the District Court of Moscow ( “District Court”) asking for the court to authorize an involuntary psychiatric examination. In August 2006, the District Court authorized a psychiatric examination of Petukhova without her consent. Petukhova was not present at the hearing nor was she notified of the decision. In December 2006, the POC requested police assistance in apprehending Petukhova to conduct an involuntary psychiatric assessment. She was then admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and a medical counseling panel diagnosed her with paranoid schizophrenia aggravated by paranoid syndrome.

Petukhova then requested a copy of the District Court’s decision and argued that the District Court made its decision without notifying her of the hearing. The Moscow City Court dismissed her appeal because it was not necessary under the Code of Civil Procedure for her to be present. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation dismissed her complaint, and she filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights.

The Court held that Petukhova’s rights under Article 5§ 1 (b) of the Convention had been violated.

The key issue was if the Government could restrict Petukhova’s rights under Article 5 §1 of the Convention in order to ensure compliance with the national law. The Government justified its action by citing Article 306 of the Russian Code of Civil Procedure, which allows for an application for an involuntary psychiatric examination to be lodged by a psychiatrist with the court but did not require the presence of the person whose examination was sought.

The Court found that because Petukhova did not know that the District Court had ordered her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, she did not have a chance to voluntarily comply. Additionally, Petukhova’s refusal to be evaluated before the court order was not sufficient to prove that she would have refused to be evaluated in the face of a court order. Therefore, there was a violation of Article 5 § 1 (b) of the Convention.

The Court observes that a judge considering an application for an involuntary psychiatric examination did not deem it necessary to verify whether the applicant had indeed objected to the examination seven months before the hearing was held or whether she had changed her mind within the seven months between her alleged conversation with a police officer and the court hearing. Even if the District Court may be presumed to have taken notice of the lack of consent on the part of the applicant in January 2006 despite avoiding its acknowledgment in writing, did not act in compliance with the domestic law as interpreted by the Constitutional Court, since no corroborating evidence was produced by the psychiatrist, who herself relied on the evidence obtained seven months before her report was drafted. In the light of such negligence on the part of the District Court, its order of 18 August 2006 was unlawful.” Para. 52-57 (56 omitted).

“Three months after the order was issued the applicant was unexpectedly taken by the police from her apartment to the police station (see paragraph 16 above). While the applicant did not resist her apprehension by the police she was detained in the station for four hours without any clear reason. The Court does not doubt that the police under section 10 subsection 22 of the Police Act 1991 had the right and duty to be involved in enforcement of the court order. However, nothing in the case materials clarifies why the applicant was taken to police station and detained there instead of being taken directly to a psychiatric facility for examination. Neither of the parties gave reasons in their submissions to suggest that the applicant had been aware of the court order, had refused (implicitly or explicitly) to comply with it, and that the four-hour detention in the police station was necessary for the enforcement of the order. The foregoing findings are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the applicant’s detention on 1 December 2006 between her apprehension by police and admittance to the PH-13 for involuntary hospitalisation and treatment was unlawful and did not comply with the requirements of Article 5 § 1 (b) of the Convention.” Paras. 61-63.