by Grzegorz STOLARSKI
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 8 September 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 9 March 2007,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 11 May 2009 requesting the Court to strike the application out of the list of cases and the applicant’s reply to that declaration,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Grzegorz Stolarski, is a Polish national who was born in 1966 and lives in Piastów. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
On 12 May 2004 the applicant was arrested on suspicion of numerous counts of burglary committed in an armed organised criminal group.
On 14 May 2004 the applicant was detained on remand by a decision of the Warsaw District Court (Sąd Rejonowy). The court based its detention order on a reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences and on the severity of the likely penalty, which gave rise to a fear that the applicant would obstruct the proceedings, in particular that he would influence witnesses and go into hiding. The applicant’s interlocutory appeal was dismissed by the Warsaw Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) on 21 June 2004.
The applicant’s detention was subsequently extended by decisions of the Warsaw Regional Court delivered on 2 August and 20 December 2004, and later by decisions of the Warsaw Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny) delivered on 5 April and 26 August 2005.
On 17 October 2005 a bill of indictment was lodged with the Warsaw Regional Court.
Further decisions extending the applicant’s detention were taken by the Warsaw Regional Court on 26 October 2005 and 20 March 2006, and by the Warsaw Court of Appeal on 25 April and 27 October 2006 and 23 February 2007. The courts justified their decisions by the complexity of the case, the significant number of persons involved, the reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences and the severity of the anticipated sentence.
On 4 June 2007 the applicant’s legal-aid counsel requested that the detention be lifted, as the applicant, suffering from heart problems, required additional medical treatment. It appears that the request was refused.
On 27 July 2007 the Warsaw Court of Appeal further extended the detention. The court held that the applicant had received adequate medical care and no additional treatment outside prison was required.
The applicant was released on 4 March 2008.
On several occasions the applicant appealed against the decisions extending the pre-trial detention. His interlocutory appeals were dismissed by the Warsaw Court of Appeal on 28 January and 10 May 2005, 14 November 2006, 23 March and 31 August 2007 and 11 January 2008.
A request by the applicant for a more lenient preventive measure was refused by the Warsaw Appeal Prosecutor on 16 August 2005.
It appears that the criminal proceedings against the applicant are still pending before the first-instance court.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning the imposition of pre trial detention (aresztowanie tymczasowe), the grounds for its extension, release from detention and rules governing other, so-called “preventive measures” (środki zapobiegawcze) are presented in the Court’s judgments in the cases of Gołek v. Poland, no. 31330/02, §§ 27-33, 25 April 2006 and Celejewski v. Poland, no. 17584/04, §§ 22-23, 4 August 2006.
The applicant complained under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention about the excessive length of his detention.
He further invoked Article 6 § 2 alleging a breach of the principle of presumption of innocence.
A. Length of the applicant’s pre-trial detention
The applicant complained about the length of his pre-trial detention. He relied on Article 5 § 3 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:
Article 5 § 3
“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.”
By a letter dated 11 May 2009 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by this part of the application. They further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration provided as follows:
“...the Government hereby wish to express – by way of the unilateral declaration – its acknowledgement of the violation of reasonableness of the length of the applicant’s pre-trial detention within the meaning of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.
In these circumstances, and having regard to the particular facts of the case, the Government declare that they offer to pay the applicant the amount of PLN 6,900, which they consider to be reasonable in the light of the Court’s case law. The sum referred to above, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be free of any taxes that may be applicable. It will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In the event of failure to pay this sum within the said three-month period, the Government undertake to pay simple interest on it, from expiry of that period until settlement, at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default periods plus three percentage points. (...)
The Government would respectfully suggest that the above declaration might be accepted by the Court as ‘any other reason’ justifying the striking out of the case of the Court’s list of cases, as referred to in Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention. ...”
The applicant did not express his view on the Government’s declaration.
The Court recalls that Article 37 of the Convention provides that it may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application or part of an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to one of the conclusions specified under (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph 1 of that Article. Article 37 § 1 (c) enables the Court in particular to strike a case out of its list if:
“for any other reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application”.
It also recalls that in certain circumstances, it may strike out an application or part thereof under Article 37 § 1(c) on the basis of a unilateral declaration by a respondent Government even if the applicant wishes the examination of the case to be continued.
To this end, the Court will examine carefully the declaration in the light of the principles emerging from its case-law, in particular the Tahsin Acar judgment (Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI); WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland (dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007; and Sulwińska v. Poland (dec.) no. 28953/03).
The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Poland, its practice concerning complaints under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention about the length of pre-trial detention (see Kauczor v. Poland, no. 45219/06, 3 February 2009 with further references).
Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government’s declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed – which is consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases – the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application (Article 37 § 1(c).
Moreover, in light of the above considerations, and in particular given the clear and extensive case-law on the topic, the Court is satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto does not require it to continue the examination of this part of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
B. Complaint under Article 6 § 2 of the Convention
The applicant further complained, referring to the fact of his continued detention and the reasons given for it, that Article 6 § 2 of the Convention had been breached.
Having regard to all the material in its possession, and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, the Court finds that this complaint lacks substantiation.
It follows that this part of the application must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration in respect of the complaint under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in so far as it relates to the above complaint in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza