by Krzysztof PIETRAS
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 15 September 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 22 January 2008,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Krzysztof Pietras, is a Polish national who was born in 1985 and lives in Gdańsk. 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 parties, may be summarised as follows.
1. Criminal proceedings against the applicant and his detention on remand
On 23 October 2004 the applicant was arrested by the police on suspicion of having committed rape and robbery.
On 25 October 2004 the Gdynia District Court (Sąd Rejonowy) remanded the applicant in custody. It relied on the reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences with which he had been charged, the likelihood of a severe prison sentence being imposed on him and the risk that he might evade justice.
Upon an appeal by the applicant, the Gdańsk Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) upheld that decision on 15 November 2004. The court relied on a strong suspicion that he had committed the offences in question. In addition, it referred to the likelihood of a severe prison sentence being imposed on him and to the risk that he might go into hiding. It also found that there were no special grounds, as specified in Article 259 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that would justify lifting the detention and imposing a less severe measure.
On 19 January 2005 the Gdynia District Court extended the applicant’s detention until 23 April 2005. The court relied on a strong suspicion that he had committed the offences in question and the likelihood of a severe sentence of imprisonment being imposed on him. In addition, the court considered that there was a risk that he might tamper with evidence.
On 15 April 2005 the court extended the applicant’s detention until 23 June 2005. The court relied on the same grounds as in its previous decisions. Moreover, it held that even though the applicant pleaded guilty there still existed the strong likelihood of a severe sentence of imprisonment being imposed on him.
On 16 June 2005 the court extended the applicant’s detention until 23 July 2005. It referred to the grounds for detention listed in the previous decisions.
On 30 June 2005 a bill of indictment was lodged.
On 11 July 2005 the court extended the applicant’s detention until 23 October 2005. The court repeated the grounds given in its previous decisions.
On 11 July 2005 the Gdynia District Court found that it had no competence to deal with the case and referred it to the Gdańsk District Court.
The applicant’s detention was subsequently extended on 18 October 2005, 23 January, 21 April and 20 July 2006. The court relied on a strong suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences in question, which was supported by evidence from witnesses. The court further considered that the need to secure the proper conduct of the proceedings justified holding him in custody. It referred to the likelihood of a severe sentence of imprisonment being imposed on the applicant. It also relied on the risk that he might tamper with evidence.
Between 9 January and 24 August 2006 the Gdańsk District Court held 12 hearings, three of which were adjourned.
On 31 August 2006 the Gdańsk District Court found that it had no competence to deal with the case and referred it to the Gdańsk Regional Court. The trial had to be conducted from the beginning.
On 1 September 2006 the Gdańsk District Court extended the applicant’s detention until 23 October 2006. It repeated the grounds given in previous decisions.
On 17 October 2006 the Gdańsk Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny), on an application from the trial court, extended the applicant’s detention until 28 February 2007. On 14 February 2007 the court ordered that the term should be extended further, until 31 May 2007. On 24 May 2007 it ordered that the applicant be kept in custody until 31 August 2007. The next decision was given on 22 August 2007; it extended the applicant’s detention until 31 October 2007.
The court in its decisions relied on a strong suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences in question, which was supported by evidence from witnesses. It attached importance to the grave nature of the offences and it considered that the severity of the anticipated penalty could by itself be a sufficient ground for continuing the detention in order to secure the proper course of the proceedings.
In the course of the investigation and the court proceedings the applicant made numerous, but unsuccessful, applications for release and appealed, likewise unsuccessfully, against refusals to release him and against decisions extending his detention.
On 17 October 2007 the applicant was released. The court held that the applicant’s detention was no longer necessary for securing the proper course of the proceedings.
In the meantime, between 20 November 2006 and 10 September 2008 the Gdańsk Regional Court held 28 hearings, one of which was adjourned.
On 10 December 2008 the Gdańsk Regional Court gave judgment. The applicant was convicted and sentenced to five years and six months’ imprisonment and a fine.
2. Proceedings under the 2004 Act
On 24 September 2007 the applicant lodged a complaint with the Gdańsk Regional Court under section 5 of the Law of 17 June 2004 on complaints about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki) (“the 2004 Act”). The applicant sought a ruling declaring that the length of the proceedings in his case had been excessive.
On 30 October 2007 the Gdańsk Regional Court dismissed his complaint. The court examined only the course of the proceedings before both the Gdynia District Court and the Gdańsk District Court, namely i.e. between 30 June 2005 and 31 August 2006. It held that there were no delays for which the courts could be held responsible. It further noted that the courts, when deciding on administrative and procedural matters, acted without delay.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
1. Preventive measures, including detention on remand
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning the imposition of detention on remand (aresztowanie tymczasowe), the grounds for its extension, release from detention and rules governing other, so-called “preventive measures” (środki zapobiegawcze) are stated 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.
2. Remedies against unreasonable length of the proceedings
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning remedies for the excessive length of judicial proceedings are stated in the Court’s decisions in the cases of Charzyński v. Poland no. 15212/03 (dec.), §§ 12-23, ECHR 2005-V and Ratajczyk v. Poland no. 11215/02 (dec.), ECHR 2005-VIII.
The applicant complained under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention that his pre-trial detention had been excessively long.
He further complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the excessive length of the proceedings.
On 7 January 2009 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant:
“I, Krzysztof Pietras, note that the Government of ¨Poland are prepared to pay me the sum of PLN 9,000 (nine thousand Polish zlotys) with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, 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. 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.
I accept the proposal and waive any further claims against Poland in respect of the facts giving rise to this application. I declare that this constitutes a final resolution of the case.”
On 15 June 2009 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I, Jakub Wołąsiewicz, Agent of the Polish Government, declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay PLN 9,000 (nine thousand Polish zlotys) to Mr Krzysztof Pietras with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, 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 and 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 period plus three percentage points. The payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.”
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds no reasons to justify a continued examination of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention). 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