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Title:Appleby and others v. The United Kingdom
Application No:44306/98
Respondent:The United Kingdom
Referred by:
Date of reference by Commission:
Date of reference by State:
Date of Judgment:06-05-2003
Conclusion:No violation of article 10
No violation of article 11
No violation of article 13

(Press release)
The applicants are Mary Eileen Appleby, a British citizen born in 1952; Pamela Beresford, a British citizen born in 1966; Robert Alphonsus Duggan, an Irish citizen born in 1947; and an environmental group, Washington First Forum. The three individual applicants, who all live in Washington, Tyne and Wear (England), set up Washington First Forum to campaign against a plan to build on the only public playing field near Washington town centre. In March and April 1998 the applicants set about collecting signatures for a petition to persuade the council to reject the project. They tried to set up a stall and canvass views in "The Galleries", a shopping mall in Washington that had become the effective town centre. They were prevented from doing so, however, by Postel, a private company which had bought most of the shopping area and had, under domestic law, the power to exclude anyone conducting unauthorised activities on its land. The manager of the one of the shops in the mall gave the applicants permission to set up stands in his store. However, permission was not granted in April 1998 when the applicants wished to collect signatures for a further petition. The manager of the Galleries informed the applicants that permission had been refused because the owner took a strictly neutral stance on all political and religious issues. However, the applicants claim that other organisations have been allowed to carry out collections and to set up stalls and displays in the Galleries.

Relying on Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of association), the applicants complained that they had been prevented from meeting in their town centre to share information and ideas about the proposed building plans. They also complained, under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), that they had had no remedy under domestic law to test whether any interference with their rights was lawful.

The Court found that while freedom of expression was an important right, it was not unlimited. The property rights of the owner of the shopping centre also had to be taken into consideration. The Court was not convinced that there should be automatic rights of entry to private property (or even all state-owned property), but if a bar on access to property were to result in the lack of any effective exercise of freedom of expression, the Court would not rule out the possibility that a positive obligation could arise for the State to protect the enjoyment of Convention rights by regulating property rights.

In the present case, however, the applicants had had alternative means of communicating their views to the public and had not been actually prevented from doing so as a result of the limited restriction imposed on them by the owner of the shopping centre. Whether they would have obtained more signatures in support of their petition if they been able to set up their stands in the shopping mall was mere speculation. The Court did not find that the Government had failed to comply with any positive obligation to protect the applicants' freedom of expression. Largely identical considerations arose in respect of their right to freedom of assembly.

Article 13 could not be interpreted as requiring a remedy against the state of domestic law, otherwise the Court would be imposing a requirement on Contracting States to incorporate the Convention into their national law. After 2 October 2000, when the Human Rights Act had taken effect, the applicants could have raised their complaints in the domestic courts.

The Court held, by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Articles 10 and 11 and, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 13 of the Convention.

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Last Modified: 13-01-2014 16:18:19 (Documentation SIM)