The European Court of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) case Krapivin v Russia has some pretty remarkable, and very sad, facts.
As the title to this post indicates, the case essentially concerned a father’s efforts to see his son, who was born in 2005. The defining issue of the case was that in February 2009 the father killed the boy’s mother, his wife, by stabbing her several times with a knife. Unfortunately the boy witnessed the murder.
In April 2009 the maternal grandmother was appointed the boy’s guardian. The boy has lived with her ever since.
In May 2010 the Russian court found that the father could not be held responsible for the murder of his wife, which had been committed under the influence of a temporary psychiatric disorder in the form of an acute reaction to stress. The court ordered that the father undergo compulsory treatment in a psychiatric hospital. In February 2011 the court found that psychiatric treatment was no longer necessary and ordered the father’s release from the hospital, although the father remained under psychiatric supervision until March 2014.
In 2011 the father applied to the family court for an order that the boy be returned to him. This was refused, and the father then applied to have contact. That application was dismissed at a hearing in May 2013. The father did not attend the hearing and claimed that he had not been given notice of it, in breach of his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but the ECHR held that there had been no such breach.
The father appealed against the dismissal of his contact application, to the Regional Court. The latter found that the judgment of May 2013 had been lawful, sufficiently reasoned and justified. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. The father sought to appeal to the Russian Supreme Court, but this was refused.
Meanwhile, despite the decisions of the courts, the father resumed contact with the boy, meeting him at school, and having telephone and Skype conversations with him.
In 2014 the father issued a fresh application to have the boy returned to him. The application was dismissed. The father appealed against this decision, but again his appeal was dismissed.
The father then took his case to the ECHR. His main allegation was that his right to family life under Article 8 of the Convention had been breached because the Russian courts had denied him the right to see his son. The court had proceeded in his absence. Further, neither the possibility of the boy suffering from a psychological trauma nor his opinion on possible contact with the father had ever been established, because the grandmother had refused to take the boy to the court-appointed experts.
The ECHR found that the father’s absence from the hearing had been remedied during the examination of the case by the appeal court, which had a broad scope to review the case. The father had been present at the appeal hearing, and had been represented by counsel. Otherwise, the courts had adduced [cited] relevant reasons to justify their decisions refusing contact. Those reasons included the fact that the father had killed the mother, that the boy had suffered profound psychological distress as a result of witnessing the murder and that by the time of the 2013 hearing the boy had been cared for by the grandmother for four years. In addition, he had not seen his father for a long time.
The courts’ decisions had been based upon a considerable body of evidence, including the father’s submissions – he had not provided evidence showing that his mental health had improved and that he presented no danger to the child) – a psychological examination of the boy, and other independent evidence. Notwithstanding the fact that the grandmother had prevented the examination of the boy by court-appointed experts, the ECHR considered that the Russian courts had sufficient evidence to assess the boy’s best interests.
In the circumstances the ECHR concluded that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention.
The full report of the case can be read here.
Image by Bryan Ledgard via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence