(Application no. 75107/01)
12 December 2006
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Dombek v. Poland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Sir Nicolas Bratza, President,
Mr J. Casadevall
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr S. Pavlovschi,
Mr L. Garlicki,
Mrs L. Mijović, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 21 November 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
1. First set of criminal proceedings (“the Bydgoszcz case”)
“...There is no evidence that could prove [the applicant’s] assertion that his wife and children ‘would soon have nothing to eat’.
Moreover, it should be noted that there is a particular reason why the pre-trial detention of [the applicant] should not be lifted. From the information obtained by the Presiding Judge it appears that [the applicant] might obstruct the proceedings.”
“Of course, the applicant’s detention for over three years in this case requires particular attention to be given to the process of gathering evidence, above all, to examine without further delay the defence motions concerning evidence. However, in the light of the proceedings as a whole, the conduct of the Regional Courts should be assessed positively”.
2. Second set of criminal proceedings (“the Zielona Góra case”)
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
A more detailed rendition of the relevant domestic law provisions is set out in the Court’s judgment in Celejewski v. Poland, no. 17584/04, §§ 22 and 23, 4 May 2006.
“Convicts (...) have a right to lodge complaints with institutions established by international treaties ratified by the Republic of Poland concerning the protection of human rights. Correspondence in those cases (...) shall be sent to the addressee without delay and shall not be censored.”
For a more detailed rendition of the relevant domestic law provisions see the Court’s judgment in Michta v. Poland, no. 13425/02, § 33, 4 May 2006.
“1. In cases where the total period of detention on remand which started before 1 August 1996 exceeds the time-limits referred to in Article 222 §§ ... and 3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the accused shall be kept in detention until the Supreme Court gives a decision on a request for prolongation of such detention under Article 222 § 4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
2. In cases referred to in § 1, if no [such] request has been lodged, detention shall be quashed not later than 1 January 1997.”
Article 2 § 2 of the Law of 6 December 1996, which added certain new grounds for prolonging detention beyond the time limits, provided:
“In cases where a request for prolongation of detention imposed before 4 August 1996 is lodged on the basis of Article 222 § 4, as amended by Article 1 of this law, the detention shall continue until that request has been examined by the Supreme Court.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law: ...
(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so; ...”
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 § 3 OF THE CONVENTION
“Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be ... entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.”
1. Arguments before the Court
2. The Court’s assessment
(a) Principles established under the Court’s case-law
(b) Application of the principles to the circumstances of the present case
As regards the second set of criminal proceedings the applicant was detained on remand on 30 January 2001 and on 28 April 2005 he was convicted by the first-instance court. However, the period between 15 February and 15 October 2001 must be subtracted from the total period of the applicant’s detention, as during this time the applicant had been serving the prison sentence. It should be noted that the applicant did not start to serve the prison sentence ordered in the first set of proceedings by the Bydgoszcz Regional Court on 27 September 2001 as the conviction did not become final and enforceable. His detention thus lasted 3 years and 7 months.
In subsequent decisions given in both sets of criminal proceedings against the applicant, the authorities failed to advance any new grounds for prolonging the application of the most serious preventive measure to the applicant.
In the circumstances of the present case, the Court finds that with the passage of time, the severity of the anticipated penalty, alone or in conjunction with other grounds relied on by the authorities, cannot be accepted as sufficient justification for holding the applicant in detention for a very long period of over 3 years.
In the present case the Court notes that there is no express indication that during the entire period of the applicant’s pre-trial detention the authorities envisaged any other ways of guaranteeing his appearance at trial. Nor did they give any consideration to the possibility of ensuring his presence at trial by imposing on him other “preventive measures” expressly foreseen by Polish law to secure the proper conduct of criminal proceedings.
71. The Court concludes, even taking into account the particular difficulty in dealing with a case concerning an organised criminal group, that the grounds given by the domestic authorities were not “relevant” and “sufficient” to justify the applicant’s being kept in detention for 3 years and 4 months as regards the first set of proceedings and 3 years and 7 months with respect to the second one.
There has therefore been a violation of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable, to be converted into Polish zlotys at the rate applicable at the settlement;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 12 December 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
T.L. Early Nicolas Bratza