(Application no. 75778/01)
27 July 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 Mamič v. Slovenia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J. Hedigan, President,
Mr B.M. Zupančič,
Mr C. Bîrsan,
Mr V. Zagrebelsky,
Mrs A. Gyulumyan,
Mr David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mrs I. Ziemele, judges,
and Mr R. Liddell, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 6 July 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. The circumstances of the case
On 17 May 1996 the Slovenj Gradec District Prosecutor lodged a bill of indictment against the applicant for causing a traffic accident by negligence with the Slovenj Gradec Local Court (Okrajno sodišče v Slovenj Gradcu).
In November 1996, the summons for the first hearing scheduled for 3 December 1996 was served on the applicant.
On 3 December 1996 the court held a hearing and heard testimony from the applicant’s husband. He gave a detailed description of how the accident had occurred, even though he had lost consciousness for a while at the time of the accident.
The court found the applicant guilty and issued her a warning (sodni opomin).
On 27 December 1996 and 12 March 1997 the applicant supplemented her appeal by adducing additional evidence.
On 9 April 1997 the Maribor Higher Court allowed the applicant’s appeal, annulled the first-instance court’s judgment and remitted the case for new fact-finding.
During the proceedings, the court appointed a medical expert. The court also sought an additional opinion from the appointed expert.
The court heard six witnesses, including the applicant’s former husband. He acknowledged that he had not been telling the truth when he was first heard before the court. He explained that on the morning of the accident, he had sneaked into the trunk of the car to follow his wife. Consequently, he was neither driving the car nor was he able to see out of the trunk.
At the last hearing the court found the applicant guilty and issued her a warning.
On 27 January 1999 the court allowed the applicant’s appeal, annulled the first-instance court’s judgment and remitted the case for new fact-finding.
On 24 May 2001 the court rejected the bill of indictment because it was time-barred. The criminal proceedings were thus discontinued.
The decision was served on the applicant on 30 May 2001.
On 19 June 2001 the applicant again requested the court to issue a decision on costs and expenses of the proceedings.
On 4 July 2001 the court delivered the decision on costs and expenses of the proceedings.
On 8 October 2001 the senate of the Slovenj Gradec District Court (Okrožno sodišče v Slovenj Gradcu) allowed the applicant’s appeal in part and increased the awarded costs and expenses.
The decision was served on the applicant on 9 October 2001.
II. Relevant domestic law
“(1) If criminal proceedings are terminated or a judgment is rendered by which the applicant is acquitted or the bill of indictment dismissed, or if a decision is rendered by which the bill of indictment is rejected, the court shall decide in the judgment or decision that the costs and expenses of the criminal proceedings from clause 1 through 5 of the second paragraph of Section 92 of the present Act, as well as necessary expenses of the accused and the necessary expenses and fees of defence counsel, shall be charged to the [State] budget...”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLES 6 § 1 AND 13 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”
1. Article 6 § 1
a) Period to be taken into consideration
“In criminal matters, the “reasonable time” referred to in Article 6 § 1 begins to run as soon as a person is “charged”; this may occur on a date prior to the case coming before the trial court (see, for example, the Deweer judgment of 27 February 1980, Series A no. 35, p. 22, par. 42), such as the date of arrest, the date when the person concerned was officially notified that he would be prosecuted or the date when preliminary investigations were opened (see the Wemhoff judgment of 27 June 1968, Series A no. 7, pp. 26-27, par. 19, the Neumeister judgment of the same date, Series A no. 8, p. 41, par. 18, and the Ringeisen judgment of 16 July 1971, Series A no. 13, p. 45, par. 110). “Charge”, for the purposes of Article 6 § 1, may be defined as “the official notification given to an individual by the competent authority of an allegation that he has committed a criminal offence”, a definition that also corresponds to the test whether “the situation of the [suspect] has been substantially affected” (see the above-mentioned Deweer judgment, p. 24, par. 46).”
b) The reasonableness of the length of the proceedings
There has accordingly been no breach of Article 6 § 1.
2. Article 13
II. 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 1,000 (one thousand euros) in respect of costs and expenses, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(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;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 27 July 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Liddell John Hedigan