N v. Romania (2017)
In N v. Romania the European Court of Human Rights has given a more formal ‘nod’ in the direction of the right to independent living enshrined in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The judgment (in French for the moment) cites the CRPD (at para 101) and then considers the applicant’s detention to be problematic in the light of, among other provisions, the obligations imposed by Article 19 (para 166-167). It finds his detention in breach of Article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights in part due to the absence of any rigorous assessment of his needs for appropriate social support – and indeed the general lack of suitable facilities of this kind in Bucharest (para 66).
References to the CRPD are increasing in UK judgments as well as in judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Invariably these have cited the Convention but then stated, either that it is not relevant (as occurred in Davey) or that the Court would have come to the same conclusion in any event (ie even if the CRPD did not exist – as occurred in Burnip).
Change comes slowly. Courts are hesitant, precedent bound institutions and yet, as N v. Romania demonstrates, change does come. It comes in meagre portions – bite sized and occasionally with a hint of flavour.