by Leszek CICHOPEK
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 15 September 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 21 March 2007,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Leszek Cichopek, is a Polish national who was born in 1957 and lives in Łódź.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
1. The criminal proceedings
On 30 June 2000 the Jaworzno District Prosecutor indicted the applicant on a charge of fraud in that in 1999 he had failed to pay 165 Polish zlotys (PLN) at a petrol station.
On 25 January 2001 the Sieradz District Court (Sąd Rejonowy) ordered that the applicant be detained on remand for a period of seven days from the day of his arrest. A warrant for his arrest was issued.
The applicant was arrested on 6 November 2006, and on 8 November 2006 the Skierniewice District Court decided to extend the applicant’s pre-trial detention. The court in particular relied on the fact that the applicant had been in hiding for six years which made it probable that he would again interfere with the proper course of the proceedings.
The applicant’s pre-trial detention was subsequently prolonged on 29 March 2007.
Subsequently, the bill of indictment against the applicant was apparently supplemented and he was charged with having been a leader of an organised criminal gang. His pre-trial detention was prolonged on 6 August 2007. The Court relied on the probability that a severe sentence could be imposed on the applicant, the risk that he would interfere with the proper course of the proceedings and the complexity of the proceedings.
On 28 September 2007 the applicant’s pre-trial detention was further extended.
It appears that the trial has not yet started and that the applicant remains in the pre-trial detention.
On 30 August 2007 the Skierniewice District Court informed the applicant that Ms K.S. had twice applied for permission to visit him in the detention centre with their child. All these requests were dismissed as she had been a co-defendant in the case. The court also refused permission for the child to visit the applicant on the ground of his age and the fact that the visit would take place in the detention centre.
2. Control of correspondence
On 6 March 2007 the applicant sent his first letter to the Court. The envelope bears signs of having been opened: its top side had been cut open and then resealed with sellotape.
On 3 June 2007 the applicant sent his application form to the Court. The envelope bears the stamp of the registry of Łódź Detention Centre. It also bears a stamp of the Skierniewice District Court and, next to it, a stamp “censored” (ocenzurowano), a handwritten date, 12 June 2007, and an illegible signature. The envelope bears signs of having been opened: its left side had been cut open and then resealed with sellotape.
On 18 July 2007 the applicant send his third letter to the Court. The envelope in which the letter was delivered bears signs of having been opened: its top side had been cut open and then resealed with sellotape. The envelope bears stamps, identical to those on the previous envelope, of the registry of the Łódź Detention Centre and the Skierniewice District Court accompanied by the stamp “censored”, a handwritten date, 21 July 2007, and an illegible signature.
On 31 August 2007 the applicant sent his fourth letter to the Court. The envelope bears the identical stamps as described above, including the stamp “censored”, date: 2 September 2007, and an illegible signature.
A letter sent by the applicant on 10 August 2007 was also delivered in an envelope which bears the above-described stamps, including the stamp “censored”, the date, 29 August 2007, and an illegible signature.
The applicant’s letter of 7 November 2007 was stamped in the same manner as described above. The stamp “censored” is accompanied by the date 19 November 2007 and an illegible signature.
The most recent letter from the applicant of 20 November 2007 was also delivered in an envelope which had been stamped “censored”, dated 28 November 2007, in the same manner as all previous letters.
The applicant also submitted that his letter from the Ombudsman had been censored by the authorities. He provided the original of the envelope in which the letter had been delivered to him. The envelope bears the stamp of the sender, the Office of the Ombudsman in Warsaw, and the stamp of a post office indicating that it had been posted on 20 June 2007. According to the other stamps, it appears that the letter reached the Sosnowiec Detention Centre on 25 June 2007, and was then sent to the Skierniewice District Court, which returned it to the Detention Centre on 11 July 2007. Next to the stamp of the District Court the envelope bears the stamp “censored”, identical to the stamps described above, a handwritten date, 5 July 2007, and an illegible signature.
B. Events that took place after the case was communicated
On 29 October 2008 the Registrar sent a letter to the applicant, informing him that the President of the Fourth Section of the Court had decided to give notice of his application to the Polish Government.
It appears from a note received from the Łódź Detention Centre that the applicant had been transported to the Łowicz Prison.
On 18 February 2009 the Government submitted their written observations on the admissibility and merits of the application.
On 24 February 2009 the applicant was invited to file any written observations in reply to those of the Government by 7 April 2009.
The applicant did not comply with the time-limit fixed for the submission of his observations. Nor did he ask the Court for an extension of that time-limit.
On 13 May 2009 the Registry sent another letter to the applicant by registered post. He was asked to explain his failure to observe the procedure fixed in the case and was informed that the Court might conclude that he no longer intended to pursue his application. He was also advised that if no response was received by 28 May 2009 the Court would consider striking the case out of its list. The letters were sent to all known addresses of the applicant including Łódź Detention Centre and Łowicz Prison, from were they had not been claimed by him and were returned by post. The letter sent to the address indicated by the applicant as his permanent one also returned unclaimed. The letter sent to the fourth address indicated by the applicant had been delivered on 2 June 2009 to the applicant’s mother-in-law as she had signed the acknowledgement of receipt. The applicant did not reply to it and to date did not resume correspondence with the Court. The most recent correspondence from the applicant was delivered to the Court on 11 December 2007.
The applicant complained under Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention that his pre-trial detention and criminal proceedings were unreasonably lengthy.
The applicant also complained that his letter from the Ombudsman was censored and that the authorities have been denying him the right to receive visits from his fiancée and his 3-year-old son.
The applicant raised several complains, under Articles 5 § 3 and 6 § 1 of the Convention, regarding the unreasonable length of his pre-trial detention and criminal proceedings. He also complained, under Article 8 of the Convention, about censorship of his correspondence and restrictions placed on his personal contact with his son and fiancée.
The respondent Government invited the Court to reject the application as being manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.
However, the Court, having regard to the events that occurred after notice of the application had been given to the Polish Government and after they had submitted their observations on the admissibility and merits of the case, considers that it does not have to deal further with the present application and that Article 37 § 1 of the Convention should be applied. That provision, in its relevant part, reads:
“1. The Court may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that
(a) the applicant does not intend to pursue his application; ...
However, the Court shall continue the examination of the application if respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto so requires.”
In this respect the Court notes that the applicant failed to submit within the time-limit his reply to the observations submitted by the respondent Government on 18 February 2009. The applicant and his representative have also failed to respond to further communications from the Registry of the Court, which were sent by registered letters, and one of which was delivered to a member of the applicant’s family on 2 June 2009.
The Court considers that, in these circumstances, the applicant may be regarded as no longer wishing to pursue his application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention. Furthermore, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 in fine, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols which require the continued examination of the case. In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Fatoş Aracı Nicolas Bratza
Deputy Registrar President