Applications nos. 67100/01, 69324/01 and
by Paul CHARLTON, Philip BAKER and David James JOHNSON
against the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 20 June 2006 as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J. Casadevall, President,
Sir Nicolas Bratza,
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr M. Pellonpää,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr S. Pavlovschi,
Mr J. Šikuta, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above applications lodged on the dates set out below,
Having regard to the partial decisions of 10 September 2002 (application no. 67100/01), and of 8 October 2002 (69324/01 and 73643/01) and the decision to join application 67100/01 taken on 10 September 2002,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicants are all male British nationals whose wives have died and who have attempted to claim equivalent benefits to those to which female widows were entitled at the relevant time in the United Kingdom.
1. Paul Charlton, no. 67100/01, lodged on 27 February 2001
The applicant, born in 1951, lives in Suffolk. He is represented before the Court by the Ipswich Welfare Rights Unit.
Widowed on 20 April 1999 and left with five children, the applicant made a claim for Widowed Mother’s Allowance and associated benefits on 27 April 2000. This was refused on 10 May 2000 because he was not a woman. He appealed. On 18 January 2001 the Appeal Tribunal refused his appeal, noting that under English law, it had no jurisdiction to take the matter further.
2. Philip Baker, no. 69324/01, lodged on 23 March 2001
The applicant, born in 1957, lives in Enfield. He is not represented before the Court.
He was widowed on 27 November 1998 and has three children, born in 1988, 1991 and 1995 respectively. In December 1998 he contacted the Social Security Department in Newcastle upon Tyne by telephone and asked whether he was entitled to a Widow’s Payment and a Widowed Mother’s Allowance. It was explained to him that these benefits were available only to women. On 2 June 2000 he submitted a claim to the Benefits Agency. His application was refused. He made three successive appeals which were rejected on 25 August and 29 October 2000 and 1 May 2001 respectively.
3. David James Johnson, no. 73643/01, lodged on 17 June 2001
The applicant, born in 1957, lives in Hexham. He is not represented before the Court.
The applicant’s wife died on 27 July 1997. He was left with two children, born in 1988 and 1992 respectively. On 26 October 1997 and on 4 February 1998 he applied to the Benefits Agency for social security benefits. He was informed that these benefits were available only to women. Following various appeals in 1998 and in 2000, he was finally informed on 2 February 2001 that the Tribunal decision refusing his application had been correct.
Relevant domestic law
The domestic law relevant to this application is set out in Willis v. the United Kingdom, no. 36042/97, §§ 14-26, ECHR 2002-IV.
The applicants complain that British social security and tax legislation discriminated against them on grounds of sex, in breach of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with both Article 8 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
By a letter of 11 May 2005 the respondent Government informed the Court that the House of Lords had decided, in relation to the claims for Widowed Mother’s Allowance (WMA) and Widow’s Payment (WPt), that there was in principle no objective justification at the relevant time for not paying these benefits to widowers as well as widows, but that the Government had a defence under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the HRA). It noted that, in view of this, the multitude of cases before the Court and the fact that the HRA defence is only applicable in the domestic arena, the Government were prepared, in principle, to settle all claims made by widowers against the United Kingdom arising out of the arrangements applicable prior to April 2001 for the payment of WMA and WPt.
In October 2005 the respondent Government sent a table setting out the list of applicants who had been offered a settlement of their claims, including the applicants in this case.
The Government notified the Court that
i) Mr Charlton had been offered GBP 12,257.64 on 19 August 2005 and had accepted payment;
ii) Mr Baker had been offered GBP 10,289.49 and had accepted payment on 16 September 2005;
iii) Mr Johnson had been offered GBP 30,865.61 and had accepted payment on 3 October 2005.
Mr Charlton’s representative and Mr Johnson were sent letters on 23 March 2006 asking whether they were content for the Court to strike their applications off its case list. They were warned that if no reply was forthcoming by 13 April 2006, the cases would be struck off. They did not reply.
Mr Baker submitted on 19 September 2005 a duly signed declaration of friendly settlement accepting the respondent Government’s offer of settlement.
The Court takes note of the agreement reached between the parties (Article 39 of the Convention). It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention or its Protocols (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention and Rule 62 § 3 of the Rules of Court). Accordingly, the applications should be struck out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to disjoin application no. 67100/01 from the applications to which it was joined; and
Decides to strike the applications out of its list.
T.L. Early Josep Casadevall
CHARLTON and Others v. THE UNITED KINGDOM DECISION
CHARLTON and Others v. THE UNITED KINGDOM DECISION