AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF


Application No. 13997/88
by Jean Elizabeth DOUGLAS
against the United Kingdom


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

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

                Mr.  H.C. KRÜGER, Secretary to the Commission


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

        Having regard to the application introduced on 12 October 1987
by Jean Elizabeth DOUGLAS against the United Kingdom and registered
on 1 July 1988 under file No. 13997/88;

        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 British citizen, born in 1952 and resident
in London.  The facts as submitted by the applicant may be summarised
as follows.

        The applicant's half-sister gave birth to a daughter C. on
16 September 1981.  The applicant's half-sister gave C. into the
applicant's care soon after birth and took no further part in C.'s
upbringing.  The applicant already had three sons of her own (B. born
on 4 July 1972, L. born on 22 March 1973 and S. born on 18 April
1975).  The applicant's sons had been in voluntary care prior to May
1978 when a parental rights resolution was passed by Leeds City
Council.  Her sons were returned on trial to the applicant's care in
July 1982.

        On 16 November 1982, the applicant left L., S. and C. in the
care of a Miss T.  On 17 November, Miss T. was arrested and was taken
to the police station with C., who was collected by the Social
Services Department of the London Borough of Lambeth (hereafter the
"Social Services").  From 17 to 22 November L., S. and C. were cared
for by a temporary carer, while efforts to trace the applicant were
unsuccessful.  On 22 November 1982 C. was placed in care under Section
2 of the Child Care Act 1982 and placed with short-term foster
parents.  On 26 November 1982, the applicant contacted the Social
Services and on 29 November 1982 C. was returned to the applicant, who
also had regained the care of her sons.  It later was revealed that on
16 November 1982 the applicant had flown to the West Indies with B. to
visit B.'s father who was ill.

        On 4 March 1983, the Social Services were informed that the
applicant had been arrested in Switzerland in connection with cheque
frauds.  They also discovered that the applicant had been arrested in
Switzerland on a previous occasion in September 1982.  On visiting her
home, they found that Mr.  L., the applicant's co-habitee, was looking
after the four children.  The Social Services applied to the High
Court for C. to be made a ward of court and by order dated 11 March
1983 C. was confirmed as a ward of court and committed to the care of
the London Borough of Lambeth.

        The Social Services informed the High Court that the applicant
had been involved in various criminal activities while she had been
living in Leeds which had contributed to her difficulties in caring
for her sons and that they were concerned that if the applicant
continued to be absent from home for substantial periods of time
because of criminal or other activities she would be unable to offer
C. appropriate long-term care.  They recommended however that pending
definite information regarding the applicant's return to the United
Kingdom C. remain at the applicant's home in the care of Mr.  L. but
that they should have the right to remove C. if there were any ground
for concern for her welfare.  On 27 April 1983, the High Court
directed that C. continue to reside in the applicant's home under the
care of Mr.  L.   It also became apparent that the applicant had left
owing substantial sums for the phone, gas and electricity, all three
services now threatening disconnection.  The Social Services came to
an agreement with Mr.  L. and paid the bills to prevent disconnection.

        On 27 August 1983, the applicant returned to the United
Kingdom, having been sentenced in Switzerland to a 18 month suspended
prison sentence in relation to fraud offences.  The applicant was
warned by the Social Services that any further disappearances might
lead to C. being removed.

        On 13 December 1983, the applicant was arrested on suspicion
of fraud offences and held in custody pending attendance at Croydon
Crown Court.  On 14 December 1983, two friends, who had been caring
for C. in the applicant's absence, left C. with the Social Services.
All four children were placed in emergency care that day.  On
15 December 1983 the applicant was released and the children returned
to her.

        On 1 March 1984, the applicant was remanded in custody on a
charge of conspiracy to defraud.  The Social Services discovered that
the applicant had arranged for a friend Mr.  C. to stay at her home
with her three sons, while C. was sent to live with Mr.  C.'s wife.

        On 8 March 1984, the Social Services held a case conference and
decided that the applicant had shown herself to be unreliable and
unfit to care for C.  They proposed to place C. with long-term foster
parents with a view to adoption and requested Leeds Social Services to
take the three boys back into residential care.

        On 15 March 1984, the three boys were collected by a social
worker from Leeds.  B. succeeded in running away and was sent to Leeds
several days later.  All three were placed in a children's home in
Leeds.

        On 13 April 1984, the applicant was committed for trial.  Bail
was refused.

        On 16 May 1984, the High Court ordered C. to be removed from
Mr. and Mrs.  C. and placed with short-term foster parents.

        On 10 September 1984, the applicant was sentenced to 21 months'
imprisonment, inter alia for handling stolen goods and possession of a
stolen cheque book and false passport.  She was released from prison
on parole on 3 May 1985.

        On 2 November 1984, C. was placed with a short-term foster
mother, who noticed marks of injury on her back.

        The matter came back before the High Court on 5 December
1984.  In their affidavit of 4 November 1984, the Social Services
submitted to the court:

        "The <Social Services> have been very concerned indeed about
        the disruptions in <C.>'s life caused in some part by the
        <applicant>'s arrest and imprisonment.  They acknowledge that
        the applicant is the parent figure in <C.>'s life and believe
        that the applicant again feels strongly that she wishes to
        undertake <C.>'s care upon her discharge from prison.  On
        balance they now believe subject to anything that may emerge
        as a result of the doctor's report on <C.>'s bruising, the
        applicant should be given one final chance to show that she
        can change her lifestyle in order to provide a stable home for
        <C.> and accordingly would propose that upon her parole from
        prison there should be a programme of access to the child
        leading, if all went well, to her rehabilitation to the
        applicant after a relatively short introductory period.  ...
        <the Social Services> would regard the <applicant>'s cooperation
        with them as essential for the success of the rehabilitation.
        They in turn would offer the <applicant> social work support,
        reasonable financial help in providing necessaries for C. and
        help in finding a day nursery place for her.  Thus the <Social
        Services> consider it important to give C. increased stability
        in her life and to monitor her development which from time to
        time has given cause for concern.  The <Social Services> also
        believe that the <applicant> would find it easier to stay away
        from criminal activities if she had a regular job and thus a
        greater income ...

        ...  The <Social Services> have reached these recommendations
        after very lengthy consideration and consider that any
        rehabilitation of <C.> to the <applicant> should be seen as the
        last chance and be undertaken only upon stringent conditions.
        If C. were to come into care again or if she were again left
        in the care of persons other than the applicant in
        circumstances such as have arisen in the past they would
        recommend that an alternative permanent placement be sought
        for C. forthwith."

        Following the order of the High Court, C. was returned to the
applicant's care on 17 May 1985 on the applicant's undertaking to
reside at all times with C. at her home address or other address as
notified to the Social Services and to ensure C.'s regular attendance
at a day nursery.  The order also gave the Social Services leave to
remove C. from the applicant if they considered it necessary on
condition they restored the matter to the Court within 48 hours.  L.,
B. and S. returned home in August 1985.

        The applicant was charged with an offence relating to use of a
stolen cheque and was tried on 28 January 1986.  She received a nine
months' prison sentence to be suspended for two years.

        On 22 April 1986, the Social Services rang the applicant's home
and discovered that the applicant had disappeared, her whereabouts
unknown though she had arranged to leave her children in the care of a
friend and a neighbour.  The applicant was later discovered to have
been arrested on her return from Jamaica for possession of cannabis.

        On 25 April 1986, the Social Services were granted a seek and
restore order from the Court, to secure the custody of C. who had been
removed at the applicant's instruction to a place unknown to the
Social Services.  C. was found on 28 April with the applicant who had
been released on 24 April.  C. was placed in a children's home.

        On 29 April 1986, the High Court granted leave to place C.
with short-term foster parents.  The applicant was allowed access to
C. of 1 1/2 hours per fortnight.

        On 29 July 1986, the High Court granted leave for C. to be
placed with long-term foster parents.

        On 8 September 1986, the applicant was convicted of a drugs
offence and sentenced to 27 months' imprisonment.

        The applicant was granted home-leave from prison and by order
of the Court dated 20 August 1987 was allowed access to C. on
7 September 1987.  The Social Services took the view that this visit
caused disruption to C. and applied to the High Court for further
access to be suspended.  This suspension was granted on 8 December
1987.

        On 18 and 19 January 1988, the Social Services' application
for C. to be placed for adoption and for the applicant's access to be
terminated came before the Court.  The applicant was present and
represented by counsel and solicitor.  The judge held that the risks
of further imprisonment of the applicant meant that it would not be in
the interests of C. to return to the applicant.  While the judge
recognised the close relationship between the applicant and C., he
found that he could not trust her to end her criminal activities and
noted that C. had become close to her foster mother.  Over a period of
18 months there had been no improvement in the situation of the
applicant and the risk of her not being able to provide stability to
C. was too high.  Since it was not possible to pursue the course of
long-term fostering with continued access (since the Social Services
stated that no foster parents looking towards adoption would agree to
this), the judge granted the Social Services' application.  By order,
no further access was to be granted to the applicant save one possible
further occasion at the discretion of the Social Services.

        The applicant was released from prison on 16 March 1988.


COMPLAINTS

        The applicant complains that the Social Services lied in the
evidence they presented to the Court and that the order placing C. for
adoption and terminating access was based on petty reasons.  She
complains that she and her daughter have been treated inhumanly and
wishes to resume care of her daughter.  The applicant does not invoke
any particular Article of the Convention.


THE LAW

        The applicant complains that she has been deprived of the
custody of and access to her daughter C.  She complains that the
Social Services told lies to the Court and that she and her daughter
have been treated inhumanly.

        The Commission has examined the applicant's complaints under
Article 8 (Art. 8) of the Convention, which provides:

        "1.  Everyone has the right to respect for his private
        and family life, his home and his correspondence.

        2.   There shall be no interference by a public authority
        with the exercise of this right except such as is in
        accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic
        society in the interests of national security, public safety
        or the economic well-being of the country, for the
        prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of
        health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and
        freedoms of others."

        While C. is not the applicant's natural daughter, the
Commission notes that the applicant assumed the care of C. when she
was two weeks old and that until the conclusion of the wardship
proceedings, the applicant has been C.'s de facto mother.

        The Commission finds that, in accordance with its established
case-law, the decision to take C. into care and terminate access
constituted an interference with the applicant's right to respect for
her family life protected by Article 8 para. 1 (Art. 8-1) of the
Convention (see e.g.  Eur.  Court H.R., W v. the United Kingdom
judgment of 8 July 1987, Series A no. 121, p. 27, para. 59).  The
Commission must therefore examine whether this interference is
justified under Article 8 para. 2 (Art. 8-2) of the Convention, namely
whether it is "in accordance with the law", pursues one or more of the
legitimate aims enumerated in Article 8 para. 2 (Art. 8-2) and whether
it is "necessary in a democratic society" for one or more of those
aims.

        The Commission recalls that C. was placed with long-term
foster parents with a view to adoption and access terminated following
the decision of the High Court on 19 January 1988, when the judge
found that the applicant was unable to provide C. with the necessary
stability and that it was not in C.'s interest to return to the
applicant.  The Commission accordingly finds that this decision, made
pursuant to the Court's common law jurisdiction, was "in accordance
with the law" and was made for the aim of protecting C.'s health and
rights.

        The question remains whether the decision was "necessary"
within the meaning of Article 8 para. 2 (Art. 8-2) of the Convention.
The case-law of the Commission and the Court establishes that the
notion of necessity implies that the interference corresponds to a
pressing social need and that it is proportionate to the aim pursued.
Further, in determining whether an interference is necessary the
Commission and the Court will take into account that a margin of
appreciation is left to the Contracting States, who are in principle
in a better position to make an initial assessment of the necessity of
a given interference.

        When determining whether or not the placing of C. in care with
a view to adoption and terminating the applicant's access to her were
necessary in the interest of C., the Commission observes that it is
not its task to take the place of the competent national courts and
make a fresh examination of all the facts and evidence in the case.
The Commission's task is to examine whether the reasons adduced to
justify the interference at issue are "relevant and sufficient" (Eur.
Court H.R., Olsson judgment of 24 March 1988, Series A no. 130, para.
68).  The Commission has accordingly examined the reasons given in the
judgment of the Court on 19 January 1988.

        The Commission recalls that the judge acknowledged the close
relationship between C. and the applicant but found that the applicant
could not be trusted to end her criminal activities and the risks of
further imprisonment meant it would not be in C.'s interests to return
to the applicant.  The judge also found that over the previous 18
months the applicant had made no improvement and the risk of her not
being able to provide stability to C. was too high.  Since the
applicant could not be trusted to care for C. and it was not possible
to have long-term fostering with access, the judge ordered that C. be
placed for adoption and that access should cease.  The Commission
finds that these reasons were "relevant" for the decisions in
question.  It also considers that the judge had "sufficient" reasons
for thinking that it was necessary to place C. in care for adoption
and to terminate the applicant's access to her.

        The Commission also recalls that the applicant was present at
the hearing and was represented by solicitor and counsel.  The
applicant therefore had the possibility of putting forward any views
which in her opinion would be decisive for the outcome of the case.
With regard to these facts, the Commission finds that the procedural
requirements implicit in Article 8 (Art. 8) were satisfied since the
applicant was involved in the decision-making process to a degree
sufficient to provide her with the requisite protection of her
interest (see e.g. Eur.  Court H.R., W v. the United Kingdom judgment,
loc. cit., pp. 28-29, paras. 63-65).

        The Commission therefore finds that, bearing in mind the
margin of appreciation accorded to the domestic authorities, the
interference in the present case was justified under the terms of
Article 8 para. 2 (Art. 8-2) of the Convention as being "necessary in
a democratic society" for the protection of health and for the
protection of the rights of others.

        It follows that the application is manifestly ill-founded
within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the Convention.

        For these reasons, the Commission

        DECLARES THE APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE.



   Secretary to the Commission         President of the Commission




          (H.C. KRÜGER)                       (C.A. NØRGAARD)