Application no. 5385/02
against the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 5 July 2005 as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J. Casadevall, President,
Sir Nicolas Bratza,
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr R. Maruste,
Mr S. Pavlovschi,
Mr L. Garlicki,
Mr J. Borrego Borrego, judges,
and Mr M. O’Boyle, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 August 2001,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,
Having regard to the letters of the parties concerning settlement,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant is a United Kingdom national who was born in 1991 and lives in Lutterworth. He was represented before the Court by Crombie Wilkinson, solicitors practising in York.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
Mr S. and his wife Mrs S. were murdered in November 1993. On 6 December 1994, their son R.S., the father of the applicant, was convicted of their murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The applicant lives with his mother. Shortly after the murder, he was in an accident. He suffered permanent physical injuries and a degree of permanent brain damage from oxygen starvation on the way to hospital. He is showing educational difficulties and it is thought unlikely that he will be able to hold down a permanent job when he grows up.
Mr and Mrs S. both died intestate. The aggregate value of their estates, after tax, amounted to 360,540 pounds sterling (GBP). They were survived by their only child R.S. and the applicant who is the only child of R.S. Neither had any surviving parent; Mr S. had one sibling, his sister Mrs W. While R.S. as the only child would in the normal course have inherited his parents’ estates, he was disqualified as a rule of public policy as he had murdered them.
Proceedings were instituted by the applicant, acting by his mother in the Chancery Division of the High Court, claiming that the estates of Mr S. (and by implication Mrs S.) devolved on him or that if this was excluded the estate devolved on the Crown as bona vacantia (in the hope or expectation that the Crown would dispense it to him).
On 5 March 1999, the High Court ruled that the estate devolved on the estate of Mrs W. The judge held that section 47(1)(i) of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 excluded the applicant as it provided, in effect, that a grandchild could not inherit from a grandparent while the parent was still alive. Where however the child of the intestate was disqualified, section 46(1)(v) allowed a sibling to inherit.
The applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal, which on 9 November 2000 rejected his appeal. The judges accepted that it was the intention of Parliament that issue should take precedence before collaterals but held that nonetheless the formulation of the statue also showed a clear intention that a child of surviving issue could not take in preference to his parent. Lord Justice Sedley commented that it was probable that neither the drafter nor Parliament had considered what would happen if the lineal successor was disqualified or disclaimed. Though Parliament, if consulted, would, in his view, have adopted the solution of jumping a generation to let grandchildren inherit, it did not follow that the courts could simply write in what they surmised had been left out. Two of the judges found that the statute was unambiguous in giving the entitlement to Mrs W., while Lord Justice Sedley considered that it should have gone to the Crown as bona vacantia.
The applicant complained under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that he had a legitimate expectation of acquiring his grandparents’ estates and that he was deprived of this “possession” without rational justification.
The applicant complained under Article 8 of the Convention that by arbitrarily diverting his grandparents’ estates away from him the English legal system has imposed a regime calculated to disrupt the natural ties of kinship.
The applicant complained under Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and/or Article 8 of the Convention that the decisions of the courts to prefer the claims of Mrs W. over his produced a result which discriminated against him.
By letter dated 8 June 2005, the Government notified the Court that the applicant had accepted their offer to settle the case on the payment of 150,000 pounds sterling (GBP), plus GBP 15,000 for legal costs. By letter of the same date, the applicant confirmed the settlement.
The Court notes that the applicant has reached agreement with the Government and wishes to withdraw his application.
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds no public policy reasons to justify a continued examination of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention). Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Michael O’Boyle Josep Casadevall
TWGS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM DECISION
TWGS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM DECISION