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THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr Guido Antonio Cataldo, is an Italian national who was born in 1941 and lives in Benevento. He was represented before the Court by Mr S. Ferrara, a lawyer practising in Benevento.

The Government were represented by their Agents, in which capacity Mr U. Leanza was followed by Mr I.M. Braguglia, and by their co-Agents, in which capacity Mr V. Esposito was followed by Mr F. Crisafulli.

A.  The circumstances of the case

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

1.  The main proceedings

In 1991 the Naples public prosecutor's office entered the applicant's name in the register of persons against whom criminal proceedings had been brought (registro degli indagati), on suspicion of forgery.

On 8 July 1994 the public prosecutor's office requested that the applicant and twenty-nine other accused be committed for trial. The application erroneously gave his name as Vito Antonio instead of Guido Antonio.

On 17 January 1995 the preliminary investigations judge listed the preliminary hearing for 30 March 1995.

On 3 February 1998 the District Court noted the mistake and sent the case file back to the preliminary investigations judge for a hearing on 20 April 1998, which was later adjourned to 27 May 1998.

On 27 May 1998 the preliminary investigations judge noted that the applicant had not been questioned and sent the file back to the public prosecutor's office.

On 15 July 1998 the prosecuting authorities questioned the applicant. The preliminary hearing was then set for 3 November 1998.

On 3 November 1998 the preliminary investigations judge ruled that he did not have jurisdiction ratione materiae and sent the file back to the public prosecutor's office.

The subsequent course of the proceedings is not known, since the file is untraceable.

2.  The proceedings under the “Pinto Act”

On 18 June 2001 the Court informed the applicant of the entry into force, on 18 April 2001, of Law no. 89 of 24 March 2001 (hereafter “the Pinto Act”), which introduced into the Italian legal system a remedy against the excessive length of judicial proceedings.

In a letter of 5 July 2001 the applicant informed the Court that he had applied to the Rome Court of Appeal for compensation under the Pinto Act and asked the Court to suspend the examination of his application until the end of the related proceedings.

On 6 July 2001 the applicant did indeed submit a claim to the Rome Court of Appeal under the Pinto Act, complaining of the excessive length of the proceedings described above.

He asked it to hold that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and to order the Italian State to make good the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage he had sustained and to pay him costs and expenses.

In particular, the applicant claimed 882,843.49 euros (EUR), made up of EUR 743,697.93 for loss of opportunity, EUR 103,291.38 for non-pecuniary damage, EUR 35,854.17 for the downgrading his employer had imposed on him and EUR 10,329.14 for costs and expenses.

By a decision of 15 October 2001, deposited with the registry on 6 November 2001, the Court of Appeal found that a reasonable time had been exceeded. It refused the application regarding compensation for pecuniary damage, describing the applicant's claims as “speculative”, but awarded him, on an equitable basis, EUR 7,230.40 in compensation for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 1,394.43 for costs and expenses, plus interest.

On 26 November 2001 the Court of Appeal's decision became enforceable.

On 3 December 2001 the applicant served the Court of Appeal's decision on the respondent authority.

In letters dated 14 February 2002 and 6 March 2002 the applicant requested payment of the sums due.

On 18 July 2002 he served the respondent authority with a notice to pay. As the money was not forthcoming, he summoned the authority to appear in court on 20 January 2003.

In a letter of 31 October 2003 the applicant asked the Court to resume its examination of his application. He explained that, in the end, he did not intend to appeal on points of law against the Court of Appeal's decision because he considered that he had very little prospect of success.

In a decision of 21 October 2003, deposited with the registry on 22 October 2003, the Rome judge responsible for supervising the execution of judgments ordered the respondent authority to pay the sums due.

On 10 December 2003 the applicant obtained payment of the amounts in question.

B.  Relevant domestic law and practice

The relevant domestic law and practice are described in Scordino v. Italy ((dec.) no. 36813/97, ECHR 2003-IV).

COMPLAINTS

1.  Relying on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant originally complained of the length of the proceedings. After making use of the remedy provided for in the Pinto Act, he complained that the Court of Appeal had not awarded him sufficient reparation for the damage he had suffered.

2.  Relying on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, he also criticised the excessive length of the Pinto proceedings.

3.  Lastly, under Article 13 of the Convention, he complained that the Pinto Act did not afford an effective remedy.

THE LAW

1.  The applicant's first complaint originally concerned Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which provides:

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

The Government contested the complaint regarding the excessive length of the proceedings. Following the entry into force of the Pinto Act they pleaded non-exhaustion of domestic remedies.

After applying to the Court of Appeal under the Pinto Act, the applicant submitted that that court had not awarded him sufficient compensation.

The Court does not consider it necessary to determine whether the applicant should have appealed on points of law against the Court of Appeal's decision because the complaint must in any event be declared inadmissible for the following reasons.

It is the Court's settled case-law that where the national authorities have found a violation and their decision constitutes appropriate and sufficient redress, the party concerned can no longer claim to be a victim within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention. The Court accordingly considers that an applicant's status as a victim may depend on compensation being awarded at domestic level on the basis of the facts about which he or she complains before the Court (see Normann v. Denmark (dec.), no. 44704/98, 14 June 2001; Jensen and Rasmussen v. Denmark (dec.), no. 52620/99, 20 March 2003 ; and Scordino, cited above) and on whether the domestic authorities have acknowledged, either expressly or in substance, the breach of the Convention. Only when those two conditions are satisfied does the subsidiary nature of the protective mechanism of the Convention preclude examination of an application by the Court (see Eckle v. Germany, judgment of 15 July 1982, Series A no. 51, p. 32, §§ 69 et seq., and Jensen v. Denmark (dec.), no. 48470/99, ECHR 2001-X).

Bearing in mind the fact that the Rome Court of Appeal acknowledged that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the Court considers that the first condition laid down in its case-law, namely acknowledgment by the authorities of the infringement of a right protected by the Convention, has been satisfied.

As regards the second condition, namely appropriate redress from the authorities for the wrong suffered, the Court must determine whether the sum awarded can be considered sufficient to make good the alleged damage and breach (see Scordino, cited above).

With regard to the refusal of the claim in respect of pecuniary damage, the Court reiterates that according to its case-law such damage corresponds to losses actually incurred as a direct result of the alleged violation (see Comingersoll S.A. v. Portugal [GC], no. 35382/97, § 29, ECHR 2000-IV) and that Rule 60 of the Rules of Court requires applicants submitting requests for just satisfaction to quantify and itemise their claims, submitting at the same time the relevant supporting documents or vouchers.

In the light of the information in its possession, the Court considers that the losses alleged by the applicant have not been substantiated, either at domestic level or in the proceedings before it, and that there is no causal link between the excessive length of the trial and the applicant's professional and financial expectations. His claims therefore remain speculative (see, mutatis mutandis, Wojnowicz v. Poland, no. 33082/96, § 74, 21 September 2000).

As regards compensation for non-pecuniary damage, the Court observes that according to its case-law that term refers to the anxiety, inconvenience and uncertainty caused by the alleged violation, and other non-pecuniary loss (see Comingersoll S.A., cited above, § 29).

In the light of the material in the file and having regard to the particular circumstances of the case, the Court considers that in aggregate the sum awarded to the applicant can be considered sufficient and therefore appropriate redress for the violation suffered.

The Court therefore considers that the Rome Court of Appeal's decision was consistent with European case-law.

Accordingly, following the Court of Appeal's decision, the applicant can no longer claim to be the victim of a violation of the Convention's provisions, within the meaning of Article 34 thereof.

This part of the application is therefore manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.

2.  In the applicant's submission, the length of the Pinto proceedings did not meet the “reasonable time” requirement in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which provides:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ...”

The Court observes that Article 6 § 1 of the Convention is applicable in the instant case (see Pelli v. Italy (dec.), no. 19537/02, 13 November 2003).

The Court notes that the period to be considered began on 6 July 2001, when the applicant applied to the Rome Court of Appeal, and ended, at the latest, on 10 December 2003, when he obtained payment of the sums due.

It therefore lasted two years and five months, which period included the proceedings at one level of jurisdiction and the time taken to enforce the decision given.

Having regard to the particular circumstances of the case, the Court considers that this period was not sufficiently lengthy to justify a finding that there is an appearance of a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

3.  The applicant's third complaint relates to Article 13 of the Convention, which provides:

“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”

The applicant submitted that the remedy provided for in the Pinto Act was not effective either in the Court of Appeal or in the Court of Cassation.

In so far as the Court has held that the Court of Appeal's decision was consistent with its case-law, it considers that the remedy provided for in the Pinto Act, in the circumstances of the present case, met the requirements of Article 13 of the Convention.

It follows that this part of the application is likewise manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court, unanimously,

Declares the application inadmissible.

CATALDO v. ITALY DECISION


CATALDO v. ITALY DECISION 


CATALDO v. ITALY DECISION