CASE OF FRYCKMAN v. FINLAND
(Application no. 36288/97)
10 October 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 Fryckman v. Finland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Sir Nicolas Bratza,
Mr J. Casadevall,
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr M. Pellonpää,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr L. Garlicki,
Ms L. Mijović, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 15 November 2005 and on 19 September 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
These provisions were repealed with effect from 1 October 1997, when new provisions were introduced which, generally, prohibited adjournments.
I. SCOPE OF THE ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of ... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
A. Period to be taken into account
Reasonableness of the length of the proceedings
32. The Court will assess the reasonableness of the length of the proceedings in the light of the particular circumstances of the case and having regard to the criteria laid down in its case-law, in particular the complexity of the case and the conduct of the applicant and of the relevant authorities. What was at stake for the applicant also has to be taken into account (see Philis v. Greece (no. 2), judgment of 27 June 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-IV, p. 1083, § 35).
40. As to the conduct of the authorities in the instant case, the Government considered that the courts acted as expeditiously as possible in the circumstances of the case. During the District Court proceedings adjournments were requested on eight occasions by the prosecutor and on three occasions by the tax authorities (plaintiff). Hearings were adjourned five times ex proprio motu by the court: on 10 June 1997 the (16th) hearing was adjourned in order to obtain the taxation decisions made by the County Administrative Court. On 23 June 1999 and on 18 November 1999 the 23rd hearing and 24th hearing respectively were adjourned in order to obtain the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court in the parallel taxation proceedings. The Government underlined that the decisions of the relevant authorities and courts at the various stages of the taxation proceedings were relevant for the purpose of assessing the applicant’s criminal conduct and that it was also in his interest to await their outcome, which was also confirmed by the applicant’s requests for adjournments throughout the proceedings. They further emphasised that when adjourning the case for this reason, the court had acted in compliance with the requirement of the proper administration of justice, taking into account also the defendants’ best interests. The fact that the outcome of the taxation proceedings was finally not favourable to the applicant should not, in their view, affect the assessment of the case.
45. The Court notes that at the beginning of the proceedings before the District Court the prosecutor requested adjournments on eight occasions. One of the plaintiffs, the County Tax Office, asked for three adjournments. The Court observes that the case was adjourned in response to these various requests for periods between one month and four months, and finds that this had an impact on the overall length.
49. The Court takes note of the Government’s assertion that the case was adjourned upon the requests of the applicant or/and the co-defendants in order to submit further evidence, the need to await the outcome of the taxation proceedings and the need to conduct additional investigations. It also notes that the applicant requested adjournments more often than his co-defendants (see Ruoho v. Finland, cited above). Nonetheless, it finds that although the applicant requested adjournments for the above-mentioned reasons there is no evidence to demonstrate that at any subsequent stage of the proceedings he was guilty of dilatory conduct or otherwise upset the proper conduct of the trial. The fact that he asked for adjournments to prepare his defence cannot be held against him. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that the applicant through his conduct was responsible for substantially prolonging the proceedings.
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, the following amounts:
(i) EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 3,500 (three thousand five hundred euros) in respect of costs and expenses;
(iii) any tax that may be chargeable on the above amounts;
(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 10 October 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
T.L. Early Nicolas Bratza