CASE OF TRUFANOV AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 18130/04)
10 January 2017
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Trufanov and Others v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Pere Pastor Vilanova,
Georgios A. Serghides, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 6 December 2016,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 18130/04) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by three Russian nationals, Mr Ivan Eduardovich Trufanov, Mr Georgiy Yuriyevich Sedov and Mr Sergey Vitaliyevich Posokhov, (“the applicants”), on 13 April 2004.
2. The applicants were represented by Mr A.V. Kiryanov and Mrs E.V. Kiriyanova, lawyers practising in Taganrog. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
3. The applicants claimed that the national courts’ refusal to award them compensation for allegedly unlawful prosecution violated the principle of the presumption of innocence under Article 6 § 2 of the Convention and their right to compensation for wrongful conviction under Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention.
4. On 16 September 2008 the application was communicated to the Government.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicants were born in 1961, 1963 and 1966 respectively and live in the town of Taganrog.
A. Criminal proceedings
6. On 2 July 2001 the Neklinovskiy District Court of the Rostov Region found the applicants guilty of various offences but declared that they need not serve their respective sentences because the case was time-barred. On 2 October 2001 the Rostov Regional Court upheld the judgment on appeal.
7. On 31 January 2002 the Presidium of the Rostov Regional Court quashed by way of supervisory review the decisions of 2 July and 2 October 2001 and discontinued criminal proceedings against the applicants. It found that the courts had not been in a position to decide on the applicants’ guilt because the whole case had been time-barred.
B. Compensation proceedings
8. The applicants sued the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation for, among other things, compensation in respect of non-pecuniary damage in connection with their prosecution.
9. In its judgment of 1 March 2005 the Taganrog Town Court of the Rostov Region rejected their claims. It reasoned as follows:
“... The court finds that, since the applicants’ guilt of the commission of the above-mentioned crimes was established, the use of the measure of restraint was justified. This being so, the court has no reason to grant the applicants’ claims for compensation in respect of the non-pecuniary damage resulting from their unlawful detention and the obligation not to leave their usual place of residence. ...”
10. On 11 May 2005 the Rostov Regional Court upheld the judgment of 1 March 2005 on appeal. It stated that:
“ ... The first instance court, in reaching its decision refusing to grant the applicants’ claims for compensation in respect of non-pecuniary damage, correctly assumed that the decision of the Presidium of the Rostov Regional Court dated 31 January 2002 cleared them of liability on non-exonerating grounds. In the court’s view, since the applicants’ guilt of the commission of the above-mentioned crimes was established, the application of the measure of restraint during the investigation was justified.
The court’s conclusion is a correct one, made following the examination and proper assessment of the legally relevant circumstances of the case. ...”
I. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS
11. In their observations the applicants raised additional complaints related to their unlawful detention and the seizure of the second applicant’s property as evidence. The Court will not consider these new aspects as they fall outside the scope of the case which has been communicated to the respondent Government (see, mutatis mutandis, Pavlenko v. Russia, no. 42371/02, § 94, 1 April 2010, and Antonyuk v. Russia, no. 47721/10, §§ 93-94, 1 August 2013).
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 2 OF THE CONVENTION
12. The applicants complained that the national courts’ refusal to award them compensation for allegedly unlawful prosecution violated the principle of the presumption of innocence. The applicants relied on Article 6 § 2 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”
13. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
1. Submissions by the parties
(a) The applicants
14. The applicants claimed that they should have been awarded compensation for unlawful prosecution because they had not been found guilty by any court.
15. In the light of the wording of the courts’ refusal to award them compensation, the applicants argued that they had nevertheless been considered guilty.
(b) The Government
16. The Government submitted that the applicants were not entitled to compensation because their criminal case had been closed due to the statutory limitation period and not on any “exonerating” grounds.
17. The Government pointed out that the accused had had the right to object to the decision to discontinue the proceedings on “non-exonerating” grounds and to request that the authorities continue the proceedings until their guilt or innocence was established. They noted that the applicants had not made use of that right.
18. As for the reference to the applicants’ “guilt” in the judgment of 1 March 2005 of the Taganrog Town Court of the Rostov Region and the appeal decision of 11 May 2005 of the Rostov Regional Court, the Government conceded that the national courts had failed to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence.
2. The Court’s assessment
19. The Court does not consider it necessary to determine in the present case whether, as a matter of principle, the refusal to award compensation because the criminal proceedings were terminated on “non-exonerating” grounds violates the presumption of innocence.
20. The Court reiterates that, according to its settled case-law, a judicial decision may violate the principle of the presumption of innocence if, even in the absence of any formal finding, there is some reasoning suggesting that the court regards the accused as guilty (see the summary of the relevant aspects in Panteleyenko v. Ukraine, no. 11901/02, §§ 66-70, 29 June 2006 with further references).
21. In the present case the court decisions refusing to award compensation were couched in terms which left no doubt as to the courts’ view that the applicants had committed the offences with which they had been charged. In particular, the Taganrog Town Court of the Rostov Region found that the “... applicants’ guilt of the commission of the crimes [...], [had been] established” (see paragraph 9 above). The Rostov Regional Court upheld that judgment on appeal in similar terms: “their guilt of the commission of the above-mentioned crimes [had been] established” (see paragraph 10 above).
22. In the Court’s view, the language employed by the Taganrog Town Court of the Rostov Region and the Rostov Regional Court was in itself sufficient to constitute a violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence.
23. In conclusion, there has been a violation of Article 6 § 2 of the Convention.
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF PROTOCOL No. 7 TO THE CONVENTION
24. The applicants complained about the refusal of an award of compensation for their unlawful prosecution. They relied on Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention which reads as follows:
“When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed, or he has been pardoned, on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to the law or the practice of the State concerned, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.”
25. The Court will first determine whether it has ratione materiae competence to examine the applicants’ complaints under Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention.
26. The Court reiterates that the Explanatory Report to Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention provides:
“[T]he article applies only where the person’s conviction has been reversed ... on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice ...”
27. In the present case the applicants were initially convicted of various offences, but were exempted from serving their sentences because their case was time-barred. The Presidium of the Rostov Regional Court subsequently quashed their conviction on the grounds that the courts had not been in a position to pronounce on the applicants’ guilt as the whole case had been time-barred.
28. Accordingly, the applicants’ conviction was reversed because the lower courts had applied the rule governing statutory limitation periods incorrectly and not because there had been “a new or newly discovered fact [showing] conclusively that there [had] been a miscarriage of justice” (see, similarly, Matveyev v. Russia, no. 26601/02, § 43, 3 July 2008).
29. In the light of the above, the Court considers that the conditions of applicability of Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention have not been complied with.
30. It follows that this complaint is incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention within the meaning of Article 35 § 3.
IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
31. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“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.”
32. Each of the applicants claimed 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage caused by the violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence.
33. The Government considered that the amount claimed was excessive.
34. The Court awards each of the applicants EUR 5,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
B. Costs and expenses
35. The applicants did not submit any claim under this head; the Court thus makes no award in this respect.
C. Default interest
36. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares admissible the complaint that the national courts’ decisions referring to the applicants’ “guilt” violated the principle of the presumption of innocence and the remainder of the application inadmissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 2 of the Convention;
3. Holds, unanimously,
(a) that the respondent State is to pay each of the applicants, within three months, EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros), to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
(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 10 January 2017, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Fatoş Aracı Branko
Deputy Registrar President