Derry couple's human rights court victory today

The right to marry is protected by Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case O’Donoghue and Others v. the United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

Violation of Article 12 (right to marry) and of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The UK Government was ordered to pay compensation.

The case concerned a Certificate of Approval Scheme requiring people subject to immigration control to pay a fee in order to marry

The Court had a number of grave concerns about the 'permission to marry' scheme operating in the UK. First, the decision whether or not to grant a certificate of approval had not been, and continued not to be, based solely on the genuineness of the proposed marriage. Secondly, the Court was especially concerned that the first and second versions of the scheme imposed a blanket prohibition on the exercise of the right to marry on all persons in a specified category, regardless of whether the proposed marriage was one of convenience or not. Thirdly, the Court found, like the House of Lords in the domestic judgments on the matter, that a fee fixed at a level which a needy applicant could not afford could impair the essence of the right to marry, especially given that many of those subject to immigration control would either be unable to work in the UK or would fall into the lower income bracket. Moreover, the system of refunding fees to needy applicants, introduced in July 2010, was not an effective means of removing any breach of Article 12 as the very requirement to pay a fee acted as a powerful disincentive to marriage.

In conclusion, the right to marry of the applicant couple, clearly in a longstanding and permanent relationship, had been breached . There had accordingly been a violation of Article 12.

Today's European Court judgement appears in full here.  You can also read my comment on the case in this UTV media report on the judgement.

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