CORONER/ADMINISTRATION: Scotching v Birch

18 MAR 2008

(Chancery Division; Patten J; 18 March 2008)

After the birth of the child, the couple's relationship broke down. The father eventually issued contact proceedings. The mother failed to attend a family court hearing, and shortly afterwards was found unconscious, having killed the child and attempted to kill herself. Because the parents, who had an equal interest in the child's estate, could not agree as to the burial arrangements for the child, the coroner refused to release the child's body without a court order. The father sought the grant of letters of administration, arguing that the mother was prohibited from applying for a grant of letters of administration on public policy grounds, in that she was not entitled to benefit from the estate of a person she had unlawfully killed. The mother argued that her right to respect for family life, under European Convention on Human Rights, Art 8, meant that she was entitled to apply for a grant of administration.

The mother's rights under Art 8 did not override the well-established and validated rule that a person should not benefit from her crimes. The mother could not apply for a grant of letters of administration; the letters of administration would be granted to the father, who was also entitled to a declaration that he was entitled to the child's body.

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