(Application no. 3097/02)
6 October 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 Stoican v. Romania,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Boštjan M. Zupančič,
Luis López Guerra,
Ann Power, judges,
and Santiago Quesada, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 15 September 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. The first set of proceedings
The applicant appealed against the arrest order on the grounds that it did not satisfy the domestic-law requirements or those set forth in Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.
On 14 December 2001 the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the order by two votes to one. The third judge expressed his separate opinion that there were no grounds for arresting the applicant.
“the reasons invoked – in the light of the complexity of the case which requires that the prosecutor take the investigative measures indicated in his request – constitute sufficient justification under Articles 155 et seq. of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”
On 28 December 2001 the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the above mentioned interlocutory judgment.
On 6 February 2002 the Supreme Court reduced the new term of detention to fifteen days.
On 15 February 2002 the Supreme Court reduced the duration of detention to fifteen days again.
On 15 March 2002 the Supreme Court of Justice reversed the decision on the ground that the documents in the file justified the extension.
On 12 April 2002 the Supreme Court reversed the interlocutory judgment again.
B. The second set of proceedings
On 24 April the Court of Appeal delivered its interlocutory judgment; it upheld the arrest order in the following terms:
“Under the terms of the last paragraph of Article 140 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court may quash the arrest order ... only if it finds that the measure was illegal.
However, in the case at hand, the [applicant's] arrest meets the conditions set forth in Article 148 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the criteria in Article 136 § 3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, to ensure the proper administration of criminal proceedings; therefore the [applicant's] complaint against the arrest order seems ill founded and shall be dismissed.
Concerning the request for conditional release from arrest, in accordance with Articles 1604 and 1606 § 5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor decides on such a request during the prosecution phase and the court that examines the merits of the case deals with the request made during the criminal trial.
Therefore, the court does not have the power to examine the request, in so far as the case is currently in the prosecution phase, under the prosecutor's exclusive supervision.”
The court also found that the prosecutor had the power to issue the arrest order, and dismissed the applicant's complaint to the contrary.
On 7 May 2002 the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the interlocutory judgment, in particular on the ground that the reasons that had justified the imposition of the preventive measure still existed and thus the applicant's continued detention was legal.
“the reasons invoked for taking the measure still exist, with regard to the nature of the offence, the circumstances of the facts and the consequences produced.
Moreover, the extension of the pre-trial detention is necessary, given the complexity of the case, which requires an examination of several witnesses, various expert investigations, gathering of documents from the authorities and confrontations.”
On 15 May 2002 the Supreme Court of Justice dismissed the applicant's appeal and upheld the above interlocutory judgment.
On 30 May 2002 the Supreme Court reversed the above decision and extended the detention by seven days to allow the prosecutor to gather more evidence, as he had requested.
The same day the Supreme Court reversed the decision; it held that the Court of Appeal had not given reasons for its decision and that the applicant's release would still be contrary to public policy in that she had apparently committed several similar offences. It therefore extended the detention pending trial by thirty days.
“as the reasons that justified the taking of this measure still exist, releasing her would be highly contrary to public policy and would harm the investigations.”
On 5 July 2002 the Supreme Court declared inadmissible an appeal lodged by the applicant, on the ground that a decision extending detention was subject to appeal at the same time as the judgment on the merits of the case.
A request by the applicant for conditional release was also dismissed by the Court of Appeal, on 22 November 2000.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 § 3 OF THE CONVENTION
“3. Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and 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. The parties' submissions
Lastly, they argued that the two periods of pre-trial detention had been necessary measures of public policy and complied with the Convention requirements.
2. The Court's assessment
(a) “Brought promptly before a judge or other officer...”
It further notes that the lapse of time before a judge examined the arrest order was eight days in the first set of proceedings and twelve days in the second set of proceedings.
There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention on this point.
(b) Length of the pre-trial detention
The courts extended the detention six times and nine times respectively, finding that the prosecutor needed the extension in order to gather more evidence (examine witnesses and produce expert reports), and that the gravity of the offence and the applicant's status as a judge raised a serious public policy issue.
II. OTHER ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF THE CONVENTION
It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
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, EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 250 (two hundred and fifty euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, for costs and expenses;
(b) that these amounts are to be converted into the respondent State's national currency at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;
(c) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount 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 6 October 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Santiago Quesada Josep