FOURTH SECTION

FINAL DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 27504/95 
by Wojciech IŁOWIECKI 
against Poland

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 23 March 2000 as a Chamber composed of

Mr M. Pellonpää, President
 Mr G. Ress, 
 Mr A. Pastor Ridruejo, 
 Mr L. Caflisch, 
 Mr J. Makarczyk, 
 Mr I. Cabral Barreto, 
 Mrs N. Vajić, judges,Note

and Mr V. Berger, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application introduced with the European Commission of Human Rights on 3 November 1994 and registered on 2 June 1995,

Having regard to Article 5 § 2 of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention, by which the competence to examine the application was transferred to the Court,

Having regard to the Commission’s partial decision of 14 January 1998,

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

 

THE FACTS

The applicant is a Polish national, born in 1955 and living in Inowrocław, Poland.

He is represented before the Court by Mr Andrzej Redelbach, a lawyer practising in Poznań.

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

A. Particular circumstances of the case

On 1 October 1993 the Poznań-Nowe Miasto District Prosecutor (Prokurator Rejonowy), on the basis of evidence and other material obtained by the Warsaw Police Headquarters (Komenda Stołeczna Policji) from the Interpol Office in London, opened an investigation against persons unknown into the circumstances of an attempt to obtain a loan of 25,000,000 US dollars by false pretences.

On 5 November 1993 the prosecutor laid charges against two persons of attempting to forge bank guarantees and of fraudulently seizing public property.

On 6 November 1993 the Poznań-Nowe Miasto District Prosecutor charged the applicant with forgery and attempting to obtain a loan of USD 25,000,000 by false pretences, offences committed together with four co-suspects, and detained him on remand on the reasonable suspicion that he had committed the offences with which he had been charged.

Subsequently, on 8 November 1993, the Poznań Regional Prosecutor (Prokurator Wojewódzki) took over the investigation from the Poznań-Nowe Miasto District Prosecutor.

On 10 and 15 November 1993 respectively, both the applicant and his defence counsel appealed against the detention order of 6 November 1993.  The other suspects lodged similar appeals at the same time.  On 29 November 1993 the Poznań Regional Court (Sąd Wojewódzki) decided that, before ruling on the appeals, it was necessary to obtain further information and medical evidence concerning the applicant’s co-suspects.  On 13 December 1993 the court dismissed all the appeals.

On 10 and 14 January 1994 the investigating prosecutor ordered that evidence be obtained from a graphology expert, an expert in financial and banking matters, as well as from a psychiatrist and a psychologist.  On 12 January 1994 the prosecutor issued a letter of request to the German authorities, asking them to hear evidence from certain witnesses residing in Germany.

On 12 January 1994, at the applicant's request, the prosecutor also presented, in writing, detailed reasons for the charges laid against him.  He held that those charges were based on various evidence, in particular in the form of bank documents and testimonies of his co-suspects.  Therefore, in the light of the material collected at this stage, there was a reasonable suspicion that the applicant and his co-suspects had forged thirty provisional bank guarantees and fifty final bank guarantees in order to obtain a loan in the sum of USD 25,000,000.

On 20 January 1994 the Poznań Regional Prosecutor ordered that the charges laid against the applicant in other criminal proceedings instituted against him by the Inowrocław District Prosecutor be joined in the same criminal proceedings and referred the latter case to the investigating prosecutor.

On 31 January 1994, on the request of the Poznań Regional Prosecutor, the Poznań Regional Court prolonged the applicant’s and his co-suspects’ detention until 4 May 1994.  On 15 March 1994, ruling on the applicant’s appeal, the Poznań Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny) upheld the first-instance decision.

In the meantime, on 14 March 1994, the applicant had requested the Poznań Regional Prosecutor to release him or to replace the detention by a more lenient preventive measure.  This request was dismissed on 30 March 1994.  A further appeal lodged by the applicant was dismissed by the Poznań Prosecutor of Appeal (Prokurator Apelacyjny) on 22 April 1994.

On 4 April 1994 the applicant requested the Poznań Regional Prosecutor to release him on bail. He claimed that his detention was putting a severe strain on his family.  In particular, his minor daughter had recently been examined by psychiatrists and it had been found that the separation from her father had seriously affected her mental state.  He also submitted that his daughter was suffering from dyslexia and that her mental state had been rapidly worsening during recent months.  Those circumstances were confirmed by a report submitted by a psychologist on 5 April 1994.  Furthermore, the applicant stressed that there was no risk of his absconding and that the proper course of the proceedings could be secured by bail.  On 22 April 1994 the request was dismissed.

On 25 April 1994, ruling on the request of the Poznań Regional Prosecutor, the Poznań Regional Court prolonged the applicant’s detention until 4 July 1994.  The applicant and his defence counsel appealed against this decision on 3 and 4 May 1994 respectively.  On an unspecified date the Poznań Court Appeal dismissed the appeals.

On 15 May 1994 the applicant lodged a further request for release with the Poznań Regional Prosecutor.  The prosecutor dismissed the request on 24 May 1994.  On 15 June 1994 that decision was upheld on appeal.

On 10 June 1994 the applicant’s defence counsel requested the prosecutor to release the applicant in view of the fact that his wife was ill and was to be admitted to hospital.  He submitted a medical certificate.  On 16 June the prosecutor ordered that evidence be obtained from a medical expert in order to establish the nature of the wife’s illness and whether her state of health required treatment in hospital. 

Later, on 21 June and 19 July 1994, the applicant again requested the prosecutor to release him on bail, submitting that his separation from his family had resulted in both his daughter and wife suffering from serious neurosis and depression.

Meanwhile, on 27 June 1994, ruling on the Poznań Regional Prosecutor's request, the Poznań Regional Court had prolonged the applicant's detention until 31 October 1994.  On 11 August 1994 the Poznań Court of Appeal, on the applicant's appeal, upheld the decision of the court of first instance in view of the reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences in question and of their serious nature.

On 7 July 1994, the Poznań Regional Prosecutor had terminated the investigation.  On 8 July 1994 he lodged a bill of indictment with the Poznań Regional Court.  The applicant's requests for release dated 10 and 21 June and 19 July 1994 were referred to that court together with the case-file.

On 7 September 1994 a medical expert submitted a report stating that the applicant's wife was suffering from neurasthenia resulting from her family situation.  On 19 September 1994 the Poznań Regional Court, after considering that report, dismissed the three above-mentioned requests for release, holding that the applicant’s detention should continue.  The court based its decision on the fact that there was a reasonable suspicion that he had committed the offences with which he had been charged and the serious nature of those offences.  It also found that the applicant's family situation did not militate against his continuing detention and that there were no grounds on which to release the applicant, as defined in section 218 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The applicant appealed on 27 September 1994, submitting, inter alia, that the mere suspicion that he had committed the offences with which he had been charged could not suffice to justify extending his detention and that such reasoning indicated that the court had violated the principle of the presumption of innocence.  He stressed that three of his co-defendants had already been released. 

On 13 October 1994 the Poznań Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal, holding that the lower court's findings had not concerned the question of the applicant's guilt but the likelihood that he had committed the offences in question.  It considered that the applicant’s detention should continue in view of the serious nature of the charges laid against him and the fact that he had acted in an organised group. 

On 25 October 1994 the applicant again requested the Poznań Regional Court to release him on bail, submitting that his family situation was critical, especially as the mental state of his wife and daughter had significantly worsened.  On 7 November 1994 the court dismissed his request, finding that even though his detention was putting a severe strain on his family, it should be continued in view of the serious nature of the charges laid against him.  

In the meantime, on 6 November 1994, the applicant attempted to commit suicide by swallowing fifty tablets of the sedative "Relanium".  On 6 December 1994 a psychiatrist examined him in prison and found that he was suffering from depression due to his confinement and separation from his family.  The doctor observed that the applicant could have been treated in prison, provided that he had co-operated with the doctors.

Subsequently, on an unspecified date, the Poznań Regional Court fixed the dates for the trial for 7 and 8 December 1994.  However, on 5 December 1994 the hearings were cancelled since the presiding judge was ill.

On 12 and 13 December 1994 the applicant and his defence counsel lodged further requests for release, still relying on the difficult situation of the applicant’s family and the fact that the applicant’s minor daughter was in need of medical treatment in hospital.  On 19 December 1994 the Poznań Regional Court ordered that evidence from medical experts from the Łódź Medical Centre be obtained to establish the state of the child’s health.  The experts submitted their report on 2 February 1995.  The court dismissed the request on 6 February 1995.  The applicant appealed to the Poznań Court of Appeal but he apparently sent his appeal directly to that court instead of sending it via the first-instance court.  The Poznań Court of Appeal upheld the first-instance decision on 11 July 1995.

On 21 February 1995 the Poznań Regional Court held the first hearing in the applicant’s case. The court decided not to examine the case on the merits and remitted it to the Poznań Regional Prosecutor, with an order for further investigative measures to be taken.  On 10 March 1995, on the parties' appeals, the Poznań Court of Appeal quashed the decision of the court of first instance, ordering that the case be examined on the merits.

During the above-mentioned hearing of 21 February 1995 the applicant unsuccessfully requested the court to release him.  On 10 March 1995, ruling on his appeal, the Poznań Regional Court upheld the first-instance decision.

On 13 and 20 April 1995 and on a further unspecified date the applicant requested the court to release him.  These three requests were dismissed on 15 May 1995 at first instance and, on appeal, on 22 June 1995.

On 6 June 1995 the applicant again requested the Poznań Regional Court to release him on bail in view of his family situation.  He also submitted that the criminal proceedings against him were not progressing with due expedience.  On 19 June 1995 the court dismissed his request on the ground that there was a reasonable suspicion that he had committed the offences with which he had been charged in an organised group, and stressed that he had attempted to obtain a substantial loan by false pretences.  The court admitted that his detention, which at the material time had exceeded eighteen months, had lasted for a long time; however this fact in itself did not change the reasons given to justify it.  The applicant appealed against this decision.  The appeal was dismissed on 11 July 1995.

On 24 July 1995 the Poznań Regional Court dismissed another request for release filed by the applicant on 11 July 1995.  This decision was upheld on appeal on 10 August 1995.

On 25 August 1995 the court held a hearing during which the applicant and one of his co-defendants requested the court to release them.  The court adjourned the trial to 15 December 1995 but released the applicant and his co-defendant with a condition that they submit to police supervision.  The court observed that at the material time the length of their detention was nearly two years and, in addition, that the trial had been adjourned for several months.  The court found that there was no risk of collusion and that police supervision would sufficiently secure the proper course of the proceedings.  On 8 September 1995, on the Poznań Regional Prosecutor's appeal, the Poznań Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the court of first instance and the reasons therefor.

Later, the court listed two hearings for 4 January and 11 March 1996.  The first hearing was cancelled since one of the defence lawyers had failed to appear; the second was adjourned as one of the defence lawyers requested the court to give him extra time to study evidence adduced by the prosecution.

On 9 April 1996 the trial court held the first hearing on the merits.  On 13 and 14 June 1996 it held hearings during which evidence from several witnesses called by the prosecution was heard. 

The next hearing was listed for 19 August 1996 but subsequently cancelled since certain lay and expert witnesses had failed to appear.  During the hearing of 23 October 1996 the court heard evidence from one witness.  On 9 December 1996 the court heard evidence from three witnesses called by the defence and adjourned the trial as several other witnesses had failed to appear.  The court fined the witnesses, considering that they had not stated any valid reasons justifying their absence.  The next hearing was listed for 23 January 1997; during that hearing the court heard evidence from one witness and ordered that evidence from experts be heard at the next hearing.

On 27 March 1997 the court adjourned the trial sine die because one of the experts had in the meantime died.

As the Poznań Regional Court had held no hearing since 23 January 1997, on 9 September 1997 the applicant complained to the Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) about the length of the proceedings in his case and requested him to intervene on his behalf.

The next hearing in the proceedings was to take place on 4 December 1997 but was cancelled because the presiding judge was ill.  On 29 December 1997 the court adjourned the trial because one of the co-defendants had failed to appear.  During the hearing of 9 February 1998 the court heard evidence from an expert and one witness but adjourned the trial to 9 March 1998.  On that day the court again adjourned the trial because a witness had failed to appear.  On 6 April 1998 the court held a further hearing and heard evidence from one witness but eventually adjourned the trial to 20 May 1998.  On that date the court adjourned the trial sine die, finding that evidence from an expert in international banking transactions needed to be obtained.  From 20 May 1998 to an unspecified date in January 1999, no hearing was held in the proceedings.  On that date the court heard evidence from an expert but then adjourned the trial sine die.

On 28 June 1999 the Poznań Regional Court gave judgment.  The applicant appealed on an unspecified date.  The proceedings are still pending. 

B. Relevant domestic law and practice

1. Preventive measures, in particular, detention on remand

At the material time the domestic provisions governing detention on remand were contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1969, which is no longer in force as it was repealed and replaced by the Code of Criminal Procedure of 6 June 1997 (currently referred to as the “New Code of Criminal Procedure”)

The Code of Criminal Procedure of 1969 listed detention among the so-called “preventive measures” (those measures were, inter alia, detention on remand, bail and police supervision).

Section 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (in the version applicable at the material time) provided:

"Preventive measures may be imposed in order to secure the proper course of proceedings if the evidence against the accused sufficiently justifies the opinion that he has committed a criminal offence."

The Code set out the margin of discretion as to continuing the specific preventive measure.  Since detention on remand was regarded as the most extreme among the preventive measures, the domestic law laid down that in principle it should not be imposed if more lenient measures were adequate or sufficient.

Section 213 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulated, insofar as relevant:

"  A preventive measure (including detention on remand) shall be immediately quashed or altered if the basis therefor has ceased to exist or new circumstances have arisen which justify quashing or replacing a given measure with a more or less severe one."

Section 225 provided:

"Detention on remand shall be imposed only when it is mandatory; this measure shall not be imposed if bail or police supervision, or both of these measures, are considered adequate."

Within the above margin of discretion the Code of Criminal Procedure set out a list of particular instances in which detention on remand might be imposed.

Section 217 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stated, insofar as relevant:

"Detention on remand may be imposed if:

1. there is a reasonable risk that an accused will abscond or go into hiding, in particular when his identity cannot be established or he has no permanent domicile [in Poland], or

2. there is a reasonable risk that an accused will attempt to induce witnesses to give false testimony or will obstruct the due course of proceedings by any other unlawful means, or

3. an accused has been charged with a serious offence [this provision referred to the so-called "crimes", i.e. offences punishable by a minimum of three years' imprisonment], or

4. an accused has been charged with an offence which creates a serious danger to society

..."

Finally, section 218 of the Code referred to particular situations in which detention on remand should not, in principle, be imposed.  That section provided:

"If there are no special reasons to the contrary, detention on remand should be quashed, in particular when:

(1) it may seriously jeopardise the life or health of the accused, or

(2) it would entail excessively burdensome effects for the accused or his family."

2. Proceedings relating to the lawfulness of detention on remand

At the relevant time the Code set out three different legal avenues whereby a detainee could challenge the lawfulness of his detention: an appeal to a court against a detention order made by a prosecutor; proceedings in which courts examined requests for prolongation of detention submitted by a prosecutor during an investigation; and proceedings relating to the detainee’s applications for release.

As regards the last of these, section 214 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stated:

"An accused may at any time apply to have a preventive measure quashed or altered.

Such an application must be decided by the prosecutor or, after the bill of indictment has been lodged, by the court competent to deal with the case, within a period not exceeding three days."

COMPLAINTS

1. The applicant complains under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention that the length of his detention on remand exceeded a "reasonable time" within the meaning of this provision.

2. Under Article 5 § 4 of the Convention he complains that the Polish authorities failed to examine speedily his applications for release.

3. Lastly, relying on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant complains about the length of the criminal proceedings against him.

PROCEDURE

The application was introduced on 3 November 1994 before the European Commission of Human Rights and registered on 2 June 1995.

On 14 January 1998 the Commission decided to communicate the applicant’s following complaints: under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention about the length of his detention on remand; under Article 5 § 4 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings relating to the lawfulness of his detention and under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the criminal proceedings against him to the respondent Government.  It declared the remainder of the application inadmissible.

The Government’s written observations were submitted on 6 May 1998, after a second extension of the time-limit fixed for that purpose. The applicant replied on 11 September 1998.

On 27 May 1998 the Commission granted the applicant legal aid.

On 1 November 1998, by operation of Article 5 § 2 of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention, the case fell to be examined by the Court in accordance with the provisions of that Protocol.

On 18 January 1999 the Government submitted a translation of their observations.  On 10 March 1999 the applicant submitted a translation of his observations.

THE LAW

1. The applicant complains under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention that the length of his detention on remand exceeded a "reasonable time" within the meaning of this provision.

Article 5 § 3 provides, insofar as relevant:

“  Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1.c of this article ... shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.”

The Government submit that the applicant’s detention, which lasted about one year and ten months, did not exceed a “reasonable time” within the meaning of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.  They stress that the applicant was charged with serious offences and that a severe penalty was likely to be imposed on him.  In the Government’s opinion, a suspicion that the applicant had committed those offences was reasonable and entirely supported by evidence obtained during the investigation. 

In their submissions, the Government also refer to the fact that, in other criminal proceedings which were instituted against the applicant by the Inowrocław District Prosecutor in September 1993 and then joined to the proceedings in issue, the applicant was detained and after three days released on bail and with a condition that he submit to police supervision.  The Government consider that this carried the risk that the applicant might abscond.

Furthermore, the Government maintain that the need to secure the proper course of the proceedings, in particular the need to obtain various expert evidence and hear evidence from certain witnesses in Germany, warranted the applicant’s detention.  In that context, the Government also attach importance to the fact that the applicant - in contrast to his co-defendants - did not confess to the charges and, moreover, his testimony contained statements contradictory to evidence obtained by the authorities.

Finally, the Government stress that the relevant authorities properly and expeditiously handled the applicant’s case and, given the voluminous evidence obtained during the proceedings, did not fail to act with diligence, as required under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.

The applicant submits that the period of nearly two years he spent in detention is incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement set out in that Article.

Moreover, in the applicant’s view, the grounds relied on by the authorities in their detention decisions cannot be considered as “sufficient” and “relevant” so as to justify such a lengthy period of detention.

On this point, the applicant maintains that a mere suspicion that he had committed the offences with which he had been charged could suffice as a basis for his detention only at an early stage of the proceedings.  In addition, such circumstances as the fact that he did not confess to the charges or that his testimonies contained statements contradictory to evidence obtained by the authorities cannot justify keeping a person in detention.  To hold otherwise would mean that a detainee, in order to be released, should be obliged to plead guilty.  It would render meaningless the protection afforded to an individual by the principle of the presumption of innocence.

The applicant acknowledges that the authorities considered that the prolongation of his detention was necessary to ensure the proper course of the proceedings and, in particular, to obtain evidence.  This could have been a valid reason, had the authorities conducted the proceedings with diligence, as required by Article 5 § 3.  However, they failed to do so.  For instance, at a very early stage of the proceedings it became apparent that, given the nature of the offences in question, evidence needed to be obtained from a graphology expert.  Yet it was not until April 1994 that the investigating prosecutor ordered that such evidence be obtained.

Referring to the court proceedings, the applicant points out that the first hearing in his case was listed several months after the bill of indictment had been lodged with the court.  Further hearings were systematically adjourned or cancelled and over the entire period of his detention the trial hardly progressed.

The applicant concludes that his right to a “trial within a reasonable time or release pending trial” was not respected.

The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of law and fact under the Convention, the determination of which should depend on an examination of its merits.  The Court concludes therefore that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.  No other grounds for declaring it inadmissible have been established.

2. Under Article 5 § 4 of the Convention the applicant complains that the Polish authorities failed to examine speedily his applications for release.

Article 5 § 4 stipulates, insofar as relevant:

“  Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.”

The Government admit that there were certain delays in the proceedings concerning the examination of the applicant’s requests for release.  However, those delays were fully justified by the need to obtain medical evidence concerning either the applicant’s wife or his daughter’s state of health.  In particular, the courts had to obtain expert reports; this, by the nature of things, took some time.  In this respect, the Government stress that the applicant relied on grounds specified in section 218 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, maintaining, in particular, that his continued detention was putting a severe strain on his family.  It was the courts’ duty to verify the applicant’s statements in that regard and establish, on the basis of medical evidence, whether in view of his family situation he should indeed be released.

Referring to the applicant’s requests for release lodged in June and July 1994, the Government pointed out that when the relevant proceedings were pending the courts examined the issue of the lawfulness of his detention in other, concurrently pending proceedings relating to the prolongation of his detention.  In those other proceedings the courts made their rulings on 27 June and 11 August 1994 respectively.  Those decisions must therefore be considered as instances of activity and diligence displayed by the authorities in the proceedings concerning the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention.

In respect of the applicant’s subsequent applications dated 12 and 13 December 1994 respectively, the Government stress that the court of first instance ruled on those requests immediately after obtaining an expert report concerning his daughter’s state of health, that is, on 6 February 1995.

The applicant submits that the authorities determined his requests for release with a substantial delay and not just a certain delay and that the need to obtain medical evidence cannot explain the overall, significant length of the proceedings relating to the lawfulness of his detention.

In that regard, the applicant refers, in particular, to two sets of such proceedings.

He makes reference, first, to the proceedings instituted by his requests for release lodged with the Poznań Regional Prosecutor on 10 and 21 June and 19 July 1994 respectively.  Those requests were later examined by the Poznań Regional Court and the Poznań Court of Appeal and the final ruling was given on 13 October 1994.

Secondly, the applicant maintains that his further applications dated 12 and 13 December 1994 were determined as late as 11 July 1995, that is, after a lapse of eight months.  In the applicant’s opinion, such a lengthy period is clearly incompatible with the notion of “speediness” laid down in paragraph 4 of Article 5.

The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of law and fact under the Convention, the determination of which should depend on an examination of its merits.  The Court concludes therefore that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.  No other grounds for declaring it inadmissible have been established.

3. Lastly, relying on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant complains about the length of the criminal proceedings against him.

Article 6 § 1 states, insofar as relevant:

“  In the determination ... of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by ... [a] tribunal established by law.”

The Government contend that, in the light of the criteria established by the Court in respect of the “reasonable time” requirement set out in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the proceedings in question cannot be considered as excessively long.

In the Government’s view, the case is a very complex one.  This view is based on the fact that the charges laid against the applicant concern complicated questions of international banking transactions.  The nature of the charges required that the authorities obtain voluminous documentary evidence and evidence from numerous lay and expert witnesses.  Also, they had to request the German authorities to take evidence from certain witnesses residing abroad.

The Government acknowledge that in the proceedings complained of the first hearing on the merits was held as late as 9 April 1996.  This was, however, due to events such as the long illness of one of the co-defendants, the illness of one of the judges, the death of an expert or the fact that witnesses repeatedly failed to appear.  The trial court cannot therefore be held responsible for delays resulting from these events.

Finally, making reference to their arguments advanced in respect of the conduct of the authorities under Article 5 § 3, the Government point out that the courts acted with due diligence which was demonstrated, in particular, by the number of hearings listed in the proceedings.

The applicant replies that the length of the proceedings in his case has exceeded six years before a single court.  In his view, that substantial delay can be explained neither by the complexity of his case, nor by the alleged illness of one of his co-defendants.  That illness in fact lasted only three days. 

The applicant concludes that his right to have a “criminal charge against him determined within a reasonable time” has not been respected.

The Court considers, in the light of the criteria established by its case-law on the question of “reasonable time”, and having regard to all the material in its possession, that an examination of the merits of the complaint is required.

For these reasons, the Court, unanimously,

DECLARES THE APPLICATION ADMISSIBLE, without prejudging the merits of the case.

Vincent Berger Matti Pellonpää 
 Registrar President

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