(Application no. 11253/07)
7 July 2009
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 Maruszak v. Poland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 16 June 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. The applicant's pre-trial detention and criminal proceedings against him
The applicant's criminal case is currently pending before the first instance court and he remains in detention by virtue of subsequent court decisions.
B. Proceedings under the 2004 Act
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
A. Provisions pertaining to pre-trial detention
B. Remedies for the excessive length of judicial proceedings
C. Relevant statistical data concerning pre-trial detention
III. MEASURES TAKEN BY THE STATE TO REDUCE THE LENGTH OF PRE-TRIAL DETENTION
A. Recent amendments to the relevant legislation
29. A number of amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (Kodeks postępowania karnego), designed to streamline criminal proceedings, entered into force on 20 June 2007 (Law of 9 May 2007 on amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure; Journal of Laws of 2007, No. 99, item 664; Ustawa o zmianie ustawy - Kodeks postępowania karnego oraz niektórych innych ustaw). Those amendments strengthened the powers of the authorities to discipline the participants. A more detailed rendition of the recent amendments to the legislation can be found in the Court's judgment given in the case of Kauczor v. Poland (see Kauczor v. Poland, cited above, §§ 27 and 30-31).
B. Other measures
31. On 17 May 2007 the Cabinet (Rada Ministrów) adopted the “Plan of Actions of the Government for the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Poland” (Program Działań Rzqdu w sprawie wykonywania wyroków Europejskiego Trybunału Praw Człowieka). By virtue of that document the Minister of Justice was obliged to disseminate among judges and prosecutors on a regular basis information on the standards concerning the length of pre-trial detention stemming from the Convention and the case-law of the Court in Polish cases and to include this topic in the programmes of workshops and seminars for judges.
IV. RELEVANT COUNCIL OF EUROPE DOCUMENTS
A. The Committee of Ministers
B. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights
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
On 8 October 2004 the Gdańsk Regional Court convicted the applicant on several counts and sentenced him to fifteen years' imprisonment. As from that date he was detained “after conviction by a competent court”, within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (a) and, consequently, that period of his detention falls outside the scope of Article 5 § 3 (cf. Kudła, cited above, § 104).
On 22 June 2005 the Gdańsk Court of Appeal partly quashed the judgment and remitted the case to the Regional Court in that part. The first instance judgment was upheld, however, with respect to a few offences and in that connection the applicant was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The court deducted from the imposed sentence the term of the applicant's detention preceding the conviction, namely two years, six months and eighteen days comprising two periods: from 24 November 2002 to 2 June 2004 and from 12 June 2004 to 22 June 2005. As a result, on 3 December 2005 the applicant finished serving the remainder of his sentence. Therefore, the period from 22 June until 3 December 2005 is covered by Article 5 § 1 (a) and falls outside the scope of Article 5 § 3.
From the latter date, however, until 30 November 2007, when the applicant was convicted in the proceedings following the partial quashing of the 8 October 2004 judgment, his detention again fell within the ambit of Article 5 § 3.
From 30 November 2007, the applicant was again detained “after conviction by a competent court”, within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (a).
On 19 June 2008 the Gdańsk Court of Appeal quashed the above judgment in the part concerning two charges against the applicant and remitted the case to the Regional Court in that part. The first-instance judgment was upheld, however, with respect to one offence and in that connection the applicant was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The appellate court deducted from the imposed sentence the term of the applicant's detention preceding the conviction, namely one year, seven months and two days comprising two periods: from 3 December 2005 until 16 June 2006 and from 29 May 2007 until 19 June 2008. Neither of the parties informed the Court of the date the applicant finished serving the remainder of his prison sentence. It appears, however, that soon after 19 June 2008 the applicant regained his status as a detained person. In these circumstances the Court cannot but assume that from 19 June 2008 onwards the applicant's detention has been again covered by Article 5 § 3.
2. The parties' submissions
(a) The applicant
(b) The Government
3. The Court's assessment
(a) General principles
(b) Application of the above principles in the present case
According to the authorities, the likelihood of a severe sentence being imposed on the applicant created a presumption that the applicant would obstruct the proceedings (see paragraph 15 above). However, the Court would reiterate that, while the severity of the sentence faced is a relevant element in the assessment of the risk of absconding or re-offending, the gravity of the charges cannot by itself justify long periods of detention on remand (see Michta v. Poland, no. 13425/02, §§ 49, 4 May 2006).
There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
However, pursuant to Article 35 § 1 of the Convention:
“The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law ...”
Accordingly, the applicant has not exhausted domestic remedies in respect of his complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention as his application under the 2004 Act failed due to his procedural mistake and he did not take the opportunity to lodge a new complaint under the 2004 Act, this time in compliance with the procedural requirements.
51. It follows that this complaint must be rejected under Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 46 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.
2. The final judgment of the Court shall be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers, which shall supervise its execution.”
A. The parties' submissions
1. The applicant
2. The Government
B. The Court's assessment
It concluded, as the Committee of Ministers had already done, that for many years, at least as recently as in 2007, the excessive length of pre-trial detention in Poland revealed a structural problem consisting of “a practice that is incompatible with the Convention” (see Kauczor, cited above, § 60; and, mutatis mutandis, Broniowski v. Poland [GC], no. 31443/96, §§ 190 191, ECHR 2004 V; Scordino v. Italy (no. 1) [GC], no. 36813/97, §§ 229-231, ECHR 2006 ...; Bottazzi v. Italy [GC], no. 34884/97, § 22, ECHR 1999 V with respect to the Italian length of proceedings cases).
IV. 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.”
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
Done in English, and notified in writing on 7 July 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza