Perez De Rada Cavanilles v Spain: ECHR 28 Oct 1998

ECHR Inadmissibility, for being out of time, of reposicion application against court decision whereby a settlement agreement which the applicant had sought to enforce had been declared void
In a dispute between the applicant and a neighbour concerning the latter’s view over the applicants property a settlement agreement was concluded between the parties. However, the time-limit laid down in the settlement passed without the neighbour carrying out his undertaking and Mrs. Perez de Rada Cavanilles applied for enforcement of the agreement. The deputy judge of the Court of First Instance dismissed her application and held that the agreement was void. The applicant complained that the Spanish courts’ strict application of the rules of procedure had prevented her from availing herself of the existing remedies and had consequently deprived her of the possibility of defending her legitimate interests in the courts, contrary to Article 6(1). It was apparent from the Court’s case-law that the ‘right to a court’, of which the right of access was one aspect, is not absolute; it is subject to limitations permitted by implication, in particular where the conditions of admissibility of an appeal were concerned, since by its very nature it called for regulation by the State, which enjoyed a certain margin of appreciation in that regard. However, those limitations did not have to restrict or reduce a person’s access in such a way or to such an extent that the very essence of the right was impaired; lastly, such limitations would not be compatible with Article 6(1) if they did not pursue a legitimate aim or if there was not a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be achieved. The rules on time-limits for appeals were undoubtedly designed to ensure the proper administration of justice and compliance with, in particular, the principle of legal certainty. Those concerned had to expect those rules to be applied. In the instant case the application to set aside, although it had been posted within the three days laid down by law, was received at the registry of the Court of First Instance two days after that period had expired. In view of the usual time taken to deliver mail, however, it seemed unlikely that a letter could have reached its destination more quickly.
The Court noted that the applicant had attempted to avail herself by analogy of the legislation applicable in administrative matters, which allowed any document or communication intended for an administrative authority to be lodged by post. In the light of the foregoing, the applicant could not be accused of having acted negligently, in view of the short period of time available to her for submitting her application, for which sufficient grounds had to be given. Under the relevant domestic legislation, the decision in issue could not have been regarded as foreseeable in the context of proceedings to enforce an agreement. The applicant had in the alternative, moreover, tried unsuccessfully to lodge the application, within the time-limit, with the registry of the Madrid duty court. However, the applicant’s husband, who had also been her legal representative, had explicitly and successfully asked the registry of the Court of First Instance for the decision in issue to be served at the applicant’s home in Madrid as she had not been at her home at Lumbier at the time. The Court considered that to require the applicant to travel to another place in order to lodge her application within the prescribed time, when the decision in question had been served on her in Madrid, would in the instant case have been unreasonable. In view of the fact that the applicant had demonstrated her clear intention of lodging an application to set aside against the decision whereby the Court of First Instance had declared the agreement concluded with her neighbour to be void, and that the dismissal of that application as being out of time had prevented her from appealing, the Court considered that in the instant case the particularly strict application of a procedural rule by the domestic courts had deprived the applicant of the right of access to a court. There had therefore been a violation of Article 6(1).


28090/95, [1998] ECHR 102


Worldlii, Bailii


European Convention on Human Rights 6


Human Rights

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CitedMatheson v Mazars Solutions Ltd EAT 16-Dec-2003
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights

Updated: 10 July 2022; Ref: scu.165673