(Application no. 25501/02)
18 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 Kozik 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,
Ms L. Mijović, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 27 June 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
“Preventive measures may be imposed in order to ensure the proper conduct of proceedings and, exceptionally, also in order to prevent an accused’s committing another, serious offence; they may be imposed only if evidence gathered shows a significant probability that an accused has committed an offence.”
“1. Detention on remand may be imposed if:
(1) there is a reasonable risk that an accused will abscond or go into hiding, in particular when his identity cannot be established or when he has no permanent abode [in Poland];
(2) there is a justified fear that an accused will attempt to induce [witnesses or co-defendants] to give false testimony or to obstruct the proper course of proceedings by any other unlawful means;
2. If an accused has been charged with a serious offence or an offence for the commission of which he may be liable to a statutory maximum sentence of at least 8 years’ imprisonment, or if a court of first instance has sentenced him to at least 3 years’ imprisonment, the need to continue detention to ensure the proper conduct of proceedings may be based on the likelihood that a severe penalty will be imposed.”
“1. Detention on remand shall not be imposed if another preventive measure is sufficient.”
“1. If there are no special reasons to the contrary, detention on remand shall be lifted, in particular if depriving an accused of his liberty would:
(1) seriously jeopardise his life or health; or
(2) entail excessively harsh consequences for the accused or his family.”
The 1997 Code not only sets out maximum statutory time-limits for detention on remand but also, in Article 252 § 2, lays down that the relevant court – within those time-limits – must in each detention decision determine the exact time for which detention shall continue.
“1. Imposing detention in the course of an investigation, the court shall determine its term for a period not exceeding 3 months.
2. If, due to the particular circumstances of the case, an investigation cannot be terminated within the term referred to in paragraph 1, the court of first instance competent to deal with the case may – if need be and on the application made by the [relevant] prosecutor – prolong detention for a period [or periods] which as a whole may not exceed 12 months.
3. The whole period of detention on remand until the date on which the first conviction at first instance is imposed may not exceed 2 years.
4. The court of appeal within whose jurisdiction the offence in question has been committed may, on application made by the court before which the case is pending or, at the investigation stage, on application made by the Prosecutor General, prolong detention on remand for a further fixed period exceeding the periods referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3, when it is necessary in connection with a stay of the proceedings, a prolonged psychiatric observation of the accused, a prolonged preparation of an expert report, when evidence needs to be obtained in a particularly complex case or from abroad, when the accused has deliberately prolonged the proceedings, as well as on account of other significant obstacles that could not be overcome.”
I. 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. Period to be taken into consideration
2. The reasonableness of the length of detention
(a) The parties’ arguments
(b) The Court’s assessment
(i) Principles established under the Court’s case-law
(ii) Application of the principles to the circumstances of the present case
38. Furthermore, the judicial authorities held that there was the danger that the applicant, if released, might abscond. They referred to the fact that the applicant, before his arrest, had attempted to abscond. The Court agrees that the applicant’s attempt to obstruct justice justified keeping him in custody at the initial stages of the proceedings. However, it considers that this ground gradually lost its relevance as the trial proceeded. Moreover, given the absence of any further attempt on the part of the applicant to obstruct the course of the proceedings in any way, it is difficult to accept that the single incident before his arrest justified keeping him in custody for the entire period of 4 years.
39. The Court cannot but note that the authorities had not deliberated on the possibility of imposing on the applicant measures other than detention expressly foreseen by Polish law to secure the proper conduct of the criminal proceedings (see paragraphs 22-24 above).
40. In that context, the Court would reiterate that under Article 5 § 3 the authorities, when deciding whether a person should be released or detained, are obliged to consider alternative measures of ensuring his appearance at trial. Indeed, that provision proclaims not only the right to “trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial” but also lays down that “release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial” (see the Jabłoński v Poland judgment cited above, § 83).
41. In the circumstances, the Court concludes that the grounds stated in the impugned decisions were not sufficient to justify the applicant’s being kept in detention for a period of over 4 years.
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.”
47. In the present case, the Court does not find any reason to depart from that principle. Consequently, it concludes that the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage claimed by the applicant is adequately compensated by the finding of a violation of Article 5 § 3.
B. Costs and expenses
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
Done in English, and notified in writing on 18 July 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
T.L. Early Nicolas Bratza