AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF


Application No. 13250/87
by S.
against the United Kingdom


        The European Commission of Human Rights sitting in private on
4 July 1988, the following members being present:

                MM.  C.A. NØRGAARD, President
                     S. TRECHSEL
                     E. BUSUTTIL
                     A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
                     J.C. SOYER
                     H.G. SCHERMERS
                     H. DANELIUS
                     G. BATLINER
                     J. CAMPINOS
                Mrs.  G.H. THUNE
                Sir  Basil HALL
                MM.  F. MARTINEZ
                     C.L. ROZAKIS
                Mrs.  J. LIDDY

                Mr.  J. RAYMOND, Deputy Secretary to the Commission


        Having regard to Article 25 (Art. 25) of the Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

        Having regard to the application introduced on 2 March 1987 by
S. against the United Kingdom and registered on 29 September 1987
under file No. 13250/87;

        Having regard to the report provided for in Rule 40 of the
Rules of Procedure of the Commission;

        Having deliberated;

        Decides as follows:

THE FACTS

        The applicant is a United Kingdom citizen born in 1922 and
resident in Liverpool.  He is represented before the Commission by
Leslie Huckfield, a Member of the European Parliament.

        The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be
summarised as follows.

        The applicant alleges that at the age of six a consultant
cardiologist erroneously diagnosed that he was suffering from a
serious heart disease.  In October 1981 on admission to hospital for a
chest infection his heart was found to be in sound health.  He claims
that his whole life has been ruined because of the original diagnosis
with a resultant loss of education, career prospects and quality of
life, whilst medical authorities continued to impose unnecessary
treatment and failed to detect the error over the years.

        The applicant sought to sue the estate of the consultant, who
had died, and the Liverpool Area Health Authority.  He was granted
legal aid in order to obtain the expert medical opinion of a
consultant cardiologist (three times) and junior counsel's opinion
(twice).  The medical expert concluded that the original consultant's
diagnosis could not be deemed erroneous, given medical knowledge and
techniques around 1930, and that it was likely that the applicant had
been suffering from a congenital heart abnormality in his youth which
had corrected itself.  He also considered that the hospital
authorities had not acted negligently in their treatment of the
applicant's health problems from time to time.  Given the various
nervous symptoms which the applicant had displayed over the years, as
well as his own description of his medical history, there may have
been uncertainty on the part of the various hospital physicians
treating the applicant whether the applicant's symptoms were entirely
nervous or whether there was another underlying heart disease which
normal testing could not fully verify.  This may have left them in
reasonable doubt and prevented them giving the applicant unreserved
reassurance about the health of his heart until 1981; in which case
they had not been negligent.

        The applicant's solicitors apparently obtained access to
certain of the applicant's medical records held by his general
practitioner (GP), which were passed to the expert.  From these
records it appears that the applicant had not always been regarded
by his GP as a man with heart disease.

        Counsel rejected any possibility of litigation against the
original consultant's estate and doubted the prospects of success of
litigation against the Health Authority.  He advised that the opinion
of senior counsel be sought as to whether, inter alia, the sheltered
life which the applicant had been obliged to lead because of his
purported heart condition could amount to a "personal injury" and
whether a non-personal injury claim would be time-barred by the rules
relating to the limitation of actions, unless it related to medical
treatment during the past six years.  He also advised that further
medical evidence would be necessary before litigation could be
contemplated, without which it would be unlikely to succeed.

        The applicant was offered the services of further medical
expertise which would have involved a review of all his medical
notes.  These might have been made available to the newly appointed
consultant on a "doctor-to-doctor" basis, but the applicant could not
afford the £250 fee involved and no further legal aid was granted.

        The local General Committee refused him further legal aid on
12 December 1984.  After a change of solicitors and a fresh
application and appeal, legal aid was again refused by the Legal Aid
Area Committee on 31 July 1985 on the grounds that "there was not, nor
could be made available any evidence to support a claim against the
proposed defendant or any other specific defendant".

        In about January or February 1986 the applicant's attempt to
litigate in person apparently failed.

        Since then the applicant has approached, inter alia, a Member
of Parliament, the Lord Chancellor and the Health Service Ombudsman,
the latter concluding that he could not intervene to determine whether
a patient's treatment had been negligent and that he had no competence
to award compensation, these being matters for the civil courts.

        The applicant claims that he cannot proceed further because he
cannot afford litigation costs and because he cannot have access to
his own medical records.


COMPLAINTS

        In correspondence with the Commission the applicant stated
that his basic complaint is that the refusal of legal aid to enable
the courts to determine his case is a betrayal of legal aid
legislation.  He has been burdened with a non-existent heart condition
for 54 years, which has ruined his life.

        In his formal application to the Commission the applicant
invoked Article 10 (Art. 10) of the Convention (right to receive information)
on the grounds that he has allegedly been refused access to his medical
records, which access was necessary to discover whether the Health Authority
had acted negligently.


THE LAW

        The applicant has complained that he has been refused legal
aid and access to certain medical records.  He has invoked Article 10
(Art. 10) of the Convention which ensures freedom of expression, including
freedom to receive and impart information, subject to various limited
exceptions.

        However, the Commission is not required to decide whether or
not the facts alleged by the applicant disclose any appearance of a
violation of this provision, as Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention provides
that the Commission "may only deal with the matter ... within a period of six
months from the date on which the final decision was taken".

        In the present case it appears from the submissions of the
applicant that the proceedings in his case effectively ended on
31 July 1985 when the Legal Aid Area Committee refused him further
legal aid.  His attempts to litigate in person in January and February
1986 apparently did not lead to any judicial decision on the merits of
his case.  For the purposes of Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention the
Commission therefore concludes that the final decision in the
circumstances of the present case was that of the Legal Aid Area
Committee on 31 July 1985.  However the application was submitted to
the Commission on 2 March 1987, that is more than six months after the
date of this decision.  Furthermore, an examination of the case does
not disclose the existence of any special circumstances which might
have interrupted or suspended the running of that period.

        It follows that the application has been introduced out of
time and must be rejected under Article 27 para. 3 (Art. 27-3) of the
Convention.

        For these reasons, the Commission

        DECLARES THE APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE.


Deputy Secretary to the Commission        President of the Commission




           (J. RAYMOND)                          (C.A. NØRGAARD)