The human rights of a German couple were breached when their children were taken into care, a court has ruled.
In BB and FB v Germany ,the couple’s two children were moved into a children’s home after their 13 year-old daughter claimed that her father regularly beat them if they did not do well at school.
The parents denied the allegations but were not told where their children had been placed.
During a subsequent court hearing, the children each gave evidence repeating their claims of mistreatment by their father, but no physical injuries were found. Despite this, the court choose to believe the children and permanently withdrew their couple’s parental rights.
They appealed but this was dismissed. The couple then applied for contact with their children. However, shortly before a decision was due on this application, the daughter admitted to having lied about her parents’ behaviour and the son confirmed her statement. The children returned home and the couples’ parental rights were restored.
The parents then took their case to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR), claiming that their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated by the German courts’ decision to believe the children. Article 8 provides a right to ‘right to respect for private and family life’.
The ECHR said the initial decision to remove the children into care and temporarily withdraw the couple’s parental rights had been a reasonable response to allegations that appeared to be credible. However, the court had not properly investigated the situation subsequently, even though it had not been under pressure to make a rapid decision as the children were already in a children’s home by that point. It had, said the EHCR, also not given sufficient reasons for withdrawing the couple’s rights to be a parent on a permanent basis. The German court had, therefore, violated the couple’s rights under Article 8. The ECHR awarded damages.