AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
by Róbert LEHEL
European Court of Human Rights (Second Section),
16 September 2008 as a Chamber composed of:
Ireneu Cabral Barreto,
Nona Tsotsoria, judges,
and Françoise Elens-Passos, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 11 January 2005,
Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Róbert Lehel, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1973 and lives in Üröm. He is represented before the Court by Ms Sz. Gabos, a lawyer practising in Budapest. The respondent Government are represented by Mr L. Höltzl, Agent, Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 13 September 1997 the applicant was arrested on the charge of having stolen a car. He was in pre-trial detention until 25 November 1997.
On 23 January 2002 a bill of indictment was preferred. The applicant was charged with having trafficked in stolen goods.
After having held several hearings and obtained the opinions of experts, on 10 September 2007 the Buda Surroundings District Court found the applicant guilty as charged and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment, the execution being suspended for a probationary period of two years.
On appeal, on 15 April 2008 the Pest County Regional Court re-characterised the applicant’s offence as complicity, an offence punishable with up to one year’s imprisonment. The court appreciated the long time which had elapsed since the commission of the offence as an important mitigating factor and decided to dispense with imposing a punishment. Instead, it formally reprimanded the applicant.
The applicant complained of the protraction of the proceedings. He invoked Articles 5 § 3 and 6 § 1.
The applicant complained that the proceedings lasted an unreasonably long time. He relied on Articles 5 § 3 and 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Court considers that the application falls to be examined under Article 6 § 1 alone which reads as relevant:
“In the determination of ... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
The Government argued that the applicant could not claim to be a victim of a violation of Convention rights, since the domestic courts had expressly acknowledged that the proceedings had been unusually long and taken this into account as a mitigating factor. The applicant contested this view.
Court observes that the Regional Court held that the duration of the
proceedings had been excessive and declared that the excessive lapse
of time since the offence had been committed was an important
mitigating factor. As a consequence, it did not impose a punishment
on the applicant
– who was convicted of an offence punishable with up to one year’s imprisonment – but issued only a reprimand. Against this background, the Court is satisfied that the applicant obtained adequate redress for the alleged violation of his right under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention to the determination within a reasonable time of the criminal charges against him. Accordingly, he can no longer claim to be a victim, for the purposes of Article 34, of a violation of Article 6 § 1. The application is therefore manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention (see
Morby v. Luxembourg (dec.), no. 27156/02, ECHR 2003-XI;
Lie and Bernsten (dec.), no. 25130/94; Tamás Kovács v. Hungary, no. 67660/01, § 26, 28 September 2004).
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the application inadmissible.
Françoise Elens-Passos Françoise
Deputy Registrar President