The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has today handed down a decision in O’Keeffe v Ireland. The facts of the case are generally that Louise O’Keeffe was subject to horrific sexual abuse by a school principle in a national school in the 1970s. A core question (played out also in the national courts) was whether Ireland failed in its legal obligations towards Louise O’Keeffe. Conor O’Mahony of UCC Law Faculty discussed this issue in his 2009 article (available here) rightly pointing out how the European Court of Human Rights would ultimately decide the issue.
The European Court of Human Rights judgment is complex, however one of the key parts of the decision is a finding that Ireland violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (press release here). Article 3 ECHR states:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Analysis of this decision will take some time, and this post is just to highlight to readers the significance of this case, where the judgment was released about 1 hour ago. Ireland has been found to have failed to have in place proper systems to prevent or punish sexual abuse in this particular case, where the sexual abuse took place in the early 1970s. This State has been judged by the European Court of Human Rights to have failed in its positive obligations towards Louise O’Keeffe to prevent and punish the torture, inhuman and degrading treatment that she suffered.
Ireland also violated Article 13 ECHR, which obliges the State to provide an effective remedy to complaints of rights violations.