(Application no. 31021/06)
3 November 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 Petroff v. Finland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Nicolas Bratza, President,
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 13 October 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
2. The applicant was represented by Mr Seppo Jääskeläinen, a lawyer practising in Espoo. The Finnish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr Arto Kosonen of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of ... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
II. REMAINDER OF THE APPLICATION
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
(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, the following amounts:
EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) in respect of costs and expenses;
plus any tax that may be chargeable on the abovementioned amounts;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts 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 3 November 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza
In accordance with Article 45 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 74 § 2 of the Rules of Court, the dissenting opinion of Judge Björgvinsson is annexed to this judgment.
OF JUDGE BJÖRGVINSSON
I do not agree that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. Admittedly, nine years for the overall proceedings is a long time. However, as repeatedly stated in the case-law of the Court, the reasonableness of the length of the proceedings must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case with reference to, inter alia, the conduct of the applicant and the relevant authorities, (Pélissier and Sassi v. France [GC], no 25444/94, paragraph 67, ECHR 1999-II).
I agree with the majority, as stated in paragraph 22 of the judgment, that the “proceedings as such were conducted within acceptable time limits.” This implies, as can also be seen from paragraphs 7 and 23 of the judgment that, of the whole nine years taken by the proceedings, the only problematic period of “inactivity”, in the view of the majority, is the period between 20 March 1998 and 17 May 2001 (three years and two months). As regards this period, the majority finds that “the Government have not shown that the necessary steps were taken by the authorities to deliver the summons to the applicant within a reasonable time ...”.
I respectfully disagree with this finding. From paragraphs 7, 8 and 23 of the judgment it transpires that during this period the bailiff repeatedly, albeit unsuccessfully, tried to reach the applicant to serve the summons on him, which eventually led to an arrest warrant being issued on 24 June 1999. This arrest warrant was subsequently renewed at regular intervals. The applicant was finally located by the bailiff on 17 May 2001 when he started to serve a prison sentence. I believe that the bailiff took, within a reasonable time, genuine and relevant steps in attempting to locate the applicant.
It appears from the documents that the applicant on or after 20 March 1998 called the bailiff's office to inform him of a new address outside Helsinki. However, if such a telephone call took place as early as 20 March 1998, as the applicant alleges, it strongly indicates that the applicant was aware of the fact that the bailiff was trying to reach him. It would therefore seem that the applicant allowed this state of affairs to persist for more than three years. Nevertheless, he still finds it appropriate to complain to the Court that the bailiff did not do enough to ensure that he was reached and to claim compensation for non-pecuniary damage allegedly suffered as a result of that. I am unable to accept this.
For these reasons I find that there has been no violation of Article 6 § 1 in this case. It follows that I also disagree with awarding compensation and costs and expenses to the applicant.