Disregard for a child’s rights in legal proceedings

Disregard for a child’s rights in legal proceedings

2014. 07. 04.

In the case of Fiona Shaw — the child of a Hungarian mother and a French father — the child’s rights have been entirely disregarded, while the Arrest Warrant has also been misused. During the legal proceedings in France, the young child’s interests and her physical and mental health have been entirely ignored. The right of the mother, living in Hungary, to equitable legal proceedings was breached, and the authorities constantly infringed the rights of the mother, who was a party to the proceedings:

the French authorities do not reply to official requests, or do so only after a delay;
summonses to attend court are sent late (and received only on the day of the hearing);
the European Arrest Warrant issued against the mother was withdrawn several years too late, which prevented her from travelling to France;
the double jeopardy principle is being disregarded; and
the authorities are restricting contact between the mother and her child, as a result of which the mother has had no contact with her daughter for three and a half years.

What can the Commission do to compel the authorities in a Member State to act in good faith in every case, and in the child’s interests at all times, in individual cases? How can the Commission help secure a resolution of Fiona Shaw’s case as soon as possible in a manner satisfactory to the child?

Answer given by Mr Hahn on behalf of the Commission

The Commission regrets the circumstances of the case which it closely examined at the return procedure stage. However, it is not within the remit of its functions to substitute the appraisal made by a national court with respect to an access rights determination in an individual case. If the mother is not satisfied with the current access rights arrangements over the child, she may seek their modification before the competent court. To secure their effective exercise, she may seek the assistance of the Central Authorities in the Member States concerned. In addition, the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters offers a platform to such authorities to solve difficulties in specific cases.

The information on this case is useful to the Commission and will be taken into account in its monitoring of the implementation of EC law. Recently, it adopted evaluation reports on Regulations No 2001/2003 on parental responsibility and No 1393/2007 on the service of documents. After further consultations, it will be decided if and how they may be improved. In particular, a public consultation is ongoing to identify possible shortcomings notably in parental responsibility matters.

As concerns the European arrest warrant, the 2007 Schengen Information System (SIS II) Decision provides that when a SIS II alert on a European arrest warrant is launched, the alert is deleted after three years maximum unless the issuing Member State maintains it. However, the possible review of the issuance itself of a European arrest warrant or of the national arrest warrant on which it is based is governed by national law. Any difficulties encountered are in particular discussed at expert meetings and meetings of the European Judicial Network in criminal matters.