CASE OF BALÁZS AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY
(Application no. 27970/12)
17 February 2015
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Balázs and Others v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Helen Keller, President,
Robert Spano, judges,
and Abel Campos, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 27 January 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 27970/12) against the Republic of Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by three Hungarian nationals, Ms Beáta Mária Balázs, Ms Zsuzsanna Ilona Mester and Mr Csaba Tóth (“the applicants”), on 24 April 2012.
2. The applicants were represented by Mr T. Fazekas, a lawyer practising in Budapest. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr Z. Tallódi, Agent, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.
3. On 25 July 2012 the application was communicated to the Government.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The applicants were born in 1975, 1975 and 1976 and live in Szigethalom, Budapest and Budapest, respectively.
5. In March 2003 criminal proceedings were initiated against the applicants on charges of blackmailing.
6. In a decision which became final and binding on 17 February 2012, the Pest Central District Court acquitted the applicants.
7. The applicants complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
8. The Government contested that argument.
9. The period to be taken into consideration began in March 2003 and ended on 17 February 2012. It thus lasted nine years for one level of jurisdiction.
In view of such lengthy proceedings, the application must be declared admissible.
10. The Court has frequently found violations of
Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in cases raising issues similar to the one in
present application (see, among many other authorities,
Pélissier and Sassi v. France [GC], no. 25444/94, § 67, ECHR 1999-II).
11. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court considers that the Government have not put forward any fact or convincing argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the present circumstances. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement.
There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
12. Relying on Article 41 of the Convention, each applicant claimed 15,000 euros (EUR) plus accrued interests in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
13. The Government did not express an opinion on the matter.
14. The Court considers that the applicants must have sustained some non-pecuniary damage. Ruling on the basis of equity, it awards each of them EUR 5,400 under that head.
15. The applicants also claimed an unspecified amount for the costs and expenses incurred before the Court, in regard to the fees billable by their lawyer.
16. The Government did not express an opinion on the matter.
17. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case-law, the Court considers it reasonable to award the applicants, jointly, the sum of EUR 1,000 under this head.
18. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) to each applicant, EUR 5,400 (five thousand four hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) to the applicants jointly, EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
4. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 February 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Abel Campos Helen
Deputy Registrar President