Press release issued by the Registrar
CHAMBER JUDGMENT St. v.
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing a Chamber judgment in the case of St. v. Germany (application no. 61603/00).
The Court held unanimously that there had been:
· a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the applicant’s placement in a private clinic from 1977 to 1979;
· no violation of Articles 5 and 8 of the Convention concerning the applicant’s stay in a private clinic in 1981;
· no violation of Article 8 concerning the applicant’s medical treatment in a university clinic;
· no violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing).
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the applicant 75,000 euros (EUR) for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 18,315 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in English.)
1. Principal facts
The applicant, St.,
is a German national, who was born in 1958 and lives in N.
In particular the applicant was
placed in a locked ward of a private psychiatric clinic from
In 1994 an expert report found that
the applicant had never suffered from schizophrenia and that her behaviour
had been caused by conflicts with her family. On
The applicant brought further unsuccessful proceedings for compensation for damage caused by her stay and medical treatment in the private clinic and by her treatment in a university clinic.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with
the European Court of Human Rights on
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portuguese), President,
3. Summary of the judgment
The applicant complained under Article 5, Article 6 § 1 and Article 8 of the Convention concerning her placement and medical treatment in the private clinic, about her treatment in the university clinic, and about the fairness of the ensuing proceedings.
Decision of the Court
Article 5 §§ 1, 4 and 5 with respect to the applicant’s placement in a private clinic from 1977 to 1979
The Court found that the applicant, who had notably tried to flee from the clinic on several occasions, had not agreed to her continued stay there and had therefore been deprived of her liberty within the meaning of Article 5 § 1.
The Court found
As there had been no court order authorising the applicant’s confinement to the private clinic, her detention had not been lawful within the meaning of Article 5 § 1.
Consequently, the applicant’s confinement to the private clinic amounted to a breach of her right to liberty as guaranteed by Article 5 § 1. No separate issues arose under Article 5 §§ 4 and 5.
Article 8 with respect to the applicant’s placement in a private clinic from 1977 to 1979
The Court found that the applicant’s
medical treatment, which had been carried out against her will, interfered
with her right to respect for private life. The Court, referring to
its findings with respect to Article 5 § 1, found that
As the applicant’s confinement to the clinic for medical treatment had not been authorised by a court order, the interference with her right to respect for private life had not been lawful within the meaning of Article 8 § 2. Consequently, there had been a violation of Article 8.
Articles 5 and 8 with respect to the applicant’s placement in a private clinic in 1981
The Court found that the factual background of the applicant’s second stay in the private clinic, unlike the one of her first stay, did not support a conclusion that she had been confined to the clinic against her will. She had therefore not been deprived of her liberty within the meaning of Article 5, and there had therefore been no violation of that Article.
The Court further found that it has not been proved that the applicant had not validly consented to her medical treatment in the clinic in 1981, and that the Court of Appeal had concluded, on the basis of the material before it, that she had not been subjected to inappropriate medical treatment. Consequently, there had not been an interference with, and no violation of, the applicant’s right to respect for her private life within the meaning of Article 8.
Article 8 with respect to the applicant’s medical treatment in a university clinic
The Court noted that, even assuming that the applicant could only be considered to have agreed to being treated with due diligence and according to the medical standards at the relevant time, the national courts had reasonably found, with the help of medical experts, that the applicant had neither intentionally nor negligently been subjected to inappropriate medical treatment. Consequently, there had been no interference with the applicant’s right to respect for her private life within the meaning of Article 8.
Article 6 § 1
The Court found that none of the
compensation proceedings the applicant had brought in the domestic
courts could be considered unfair. In particular, in the proceedings
The Court’s judgments are accessible on its Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in
 Under Article 43 of the European Convention on Human Rights, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17‑member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.
 Judge elected in respect of
 This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.