Press release issued by the Registrar
SCHNEIDER v. FRANCE
The European Court of Human Rights has declared inadmissible the application lodged in the case of Schneider v. France (application no. 49852/06) concerning the conditions governing the applicant’s ability to appeal against the imposition of fines for exceeding the speed limit. (The decision is available only in French.)
The applicant, Florence Schneider, is a French national who was born in 1958 and lives in Strasbourg. In 2005 she was twice ordered to pay fines for exceeding the speed limit, following automatic speed checks. The notices requesting her to pay the fines stated that unless payment was made within a specified period, proceedings would be instituted to seize her property, and that the sums due had to be deposited before any appeal could be lodged. The applicant initially addressed appeals to the public prosecutor’s office, refusing to deposit the sums due in advance. She claimed to have received no reply, an assertion contested by the Government. She eventually paid the fines – with interest – in mid-2006 and subsequently lodged further appeals, to which she received no reply.
The applicant lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights on 7 December 2006. Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) of the European Convention on Human Rights, she complained in particular of being required to deposit the sums concerned in order to gain access to a court; she submitted that, in view of her household income (350 euros (EUR) per person per month), it had been impossible for her to deposit the sums demanded (totalling EUR 555). Relying on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), she argued that, having been unable to gain access to a court, she had been improperly obliged to pay the fines.
The Court considered that the applicant’s complaints overlapped and pointed out that it had already ruled, in Thomas v. France (inadmissibility decision of 29 April 2008, no. 14279/05), that the rules governing the formal steps to be taken in lodging an appeal were undoubtedly aimed at ensuring the proper administration of justice and that, in the sphere of road traffic offences, which concerned the entire population and were the subject of frequent appeals, the aim pursued by the requirement to deposit the sums in question (to prevent dilatory or vexatious appeals and overloading of the Police Court’s list) was legitimate. Unlike the applicant in Thomas, Ms Schneider alleged that she had insufficient funds to deposit the sums required. However, the Court took the view that the applicant had failed to demonstrate that her household income had been inadequate to enable her to deposit EUR 555; moreover, she had eventually paid a higher overall sum, comprising the fines together with interest and bailiffs’ fees. In view of the margin of appreciation left to States with regard to the conditions of admissibility of appeals and the circumstances of the case, the Court considered that the applicant’s complaints were manifestly ill-founded and declared the application inadmissible.
The decision will be available today on the Court’s Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int). Judgment will be delivered at a later date.
Dolt (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 53 39)
Stefano Piedimonte (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 04)
Tracey Turner-Tretz (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.