THE FACTS

The facts presented by the parties and apparently not in dispute
between them may be summarised as follows:

The applicant is an Irish citizen, born in Cork in 1939. At the time
of introducing his application he was held in H.M. Prison, Wandsworth.
He was released on 25 October 1971 and now lives in Poplar, East
London.

On 24 June 1970, at the Social Security office in Scarborough Street,
London, W.1, the applicant presented a claim form in which he falsely
stated that he had last received a benefit on 29 May 1970. He had, in
fact, received £3-11-0 on 18 June 1970. Enquiries were made and the
applicant was arrested. He appeared before the Thames Magistrates'
Court on 25 June and pleaded guilty to attempting to obtain £6-3-0 by
deception. The Magistrates then exercised their power to commit the
applicant to the Inner London Quarter Sessions for sentence.

The applicant had not applied for legal aid in the proceedings before
the Magistrates. He did, however, apply to the Quarter Sessions for a
legal aid order to cover the proceedings before that Court. His request
was for representation by solicitor and counsel and it was received by
the Court on 3 July. It appears that, owing to an administrative delay
in processing the papers, the request was not dealt with as
expeditiously as would normally be the case. The matter was not
considered until Friday, 31 July, when it was too late to instruct a
solicitor. The Court, therefore refused the application. The applicant
was notified of this decision by a letter dated Monday, 3 August 1970.
He received the letter on 5 August, the day after he appeared before
the Court.

On 4 August 1970 the applicant appeared before the Inner London Quarter
Sessions. Since he was unrepresented by either solicitor or counsel he
was offered, and he accepted, the assistance of counsel. A legal aid
order was made covering representation by counsel only.

At the hearing, information concerning the applicant's antecedents and
previous record were given to the Court. It was stated that the
applicant had been unemployed and living on social security for the
previous four months. This was not correct, as the applicant had been
employed for thirteen days in June. Defence counsel made a speech
requesting Leniency but said nothing about the technical nature of the
offence to which the applicant had pleaded guilty. He did not explain
that a lesser charge, carrying a lower maximum sentence, could have
been brought on the facts.

The applicant was sentenced to a total of two years' imprisonment, of
which one year was for the offence of attempting to obtain the £6-3-0
by deception and a further year was for breach of a probation order
which had been made in November 1969.

On 5 August 1970 the applicant applied to a single judge of the Court
of Appeal for leave to appeal against his sentence. His grounds were
(inter alia)  (a) that the application form, which he had dishonestly
completed, stated that the maximum punishment for such an offense was
six months' imprisonment,  (b) that the police witness had given an
incorrect account of his antecedent history and  (c) that, having
received legal aid only on the day of his trial, he had not chance to
explain the mitigating aspects of his case to counsel. The application
was refused on 28 January 1971 with the following observations by the
judge:  "The Magistrates convicted you of obtaining money by deception
and committed you for sentence so that you could in view of your record
get up to 5 years. There was a Social Enquiry Report mentioned by your
counsel and before the Court and me. It does not help you. There is no
reason to alter your sentences."

The applicant renewed his application for leave to appeal, to the full
Court of Appeal. On 29 March 1971 he filed additional grounds of appeal
in which he pleaded that the offence of which he had been convicted was
in essence the same as the offence of making a false declaration on a
claim for social security. Had he been convicted of this latter
offense, his maximum punishment would have been much less than a year
in prison.

His application for leave to appeal was rejected by the full Court of
Appeal on 5 April 9171 on the grounds that the sentences were "well
deserved". Neither the single judge nor the full Court of Appeal had
discussed the fact that the applicant could have been charged on the
same facts with a different offence carrying a lower maximum penalty.

COMPLAINTS

The applicant complains that, after he had dishonestly filled in a
social security form, he was wrongly convicted and sentenced for a
relatively serious offense carrying a maximum penalty of ten years'
imprisonment. He had pleaded guilty to the "crime" but had thought that
he was pleading guilty to a minor offense carrying a low maximum
sentence. It was not until he was sentenced to one year's imprisonment
with a further year for breach of probation that he became aware that
he had been charged with a more serious offense.

He complains of the fact that he did not obtain full legal aid at
Quarter Sessions. He claims that, having obtained legal aid (for
counsel) only on the day of his appearance, he had insufficient time
to explain the mitigating facts to counsel, who, therefore, was unable
to offer a proper defence. The applicant is unable to understand how
he can have been sentenced to two years' imprisonment for attempting
to commit a crime, when the maximum punishment for the crime, even had
it been successfully carried out, should have been less than one year.

From the applicant's original submissions to the Commission it appeared
that when he had appealed to the English Court of Appeal he had
complained, inter alia, that he had been "browbeaten" by the police
into pleading guilty. It was not clear whether he wished to raise this
as a complaint before the Commission. He made no clear submissions on
it when writing to the Commission.

He alleges the violation of Articles 6 (3), (b) and (c) and 7 of the
Convention.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

The respondent Government  submitted their written observations on
admissibility on 6 December 1971 and the applicant submitted his
observations in reply on 8 February 1972.

In a partial decision of 29 May 1972 (1), the Commission declared
inadmissible the applicant's complaint that he had been "browbeaten"
by the police to pleading guilty, as being manifestly ill-founded
within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (2), of the Convention.
---------------------
(1)  Not published.
---------------------
On 3 and 4 October 1972, the Commission held a hearing of the parties
who were represented as follows:

For the applicant:

Mr Conrad Schiemann, Barrister at Law
Mr M.D. Pringsheim, of Neilsen & Co., Solicitors.

For the respondent Government:

Mr P. R. N. Fifoot, Legal Counsellor at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, Agent of the United Kingdom Government
Mr Gordon Slynn, Junior Counsel to the Treasury
Mr A. H. Hammond, Senior Legal Assistant at the Home Office
Mr R. L. Jones, Assistant Secretary at the Home Office and Mr R. J.
Clayton, legal Assistant at the Home Office.


SUBMISSIONS OF THE PARTIES

Submissions on question of fact

Only two questions of fact appear to have been in issue in the present
case.

1. The applicant stated in his appeal to the Court of Appeal, and again
when he presented his case to the Commission, that the social security
form, which he had dishonestly completed, bore a warning to the effect
that the maximum penalty for failing to fill out the form honestly was
six months' imprisonment. The Government maintained that the form
contained no such reference to a maximum penalty.

At the hearing before the Commission, counsel for the respondent
Government produced a photostat copy of the form which had been
completed and signed by J. J. Murphy. It bore no reference to a maximum
punishment. Counsel for the applicant did not dispute that this was the
form in question and agreed that, on this point of fact, the applicant
must have been mistaken.

2. The applicant maintained that on the day of his appearance before
Quarter Sessions he was only granted a "dock brief" ten minutes before
he was due to appear.

At the hearing counsel for the respondent Government stated that
enquiries had been made on this point. Counsel had been assigned to the
applicant before the end of the morning hearing on the day in question.
His case was not heard until the afternoon. It seemed that counsel had
been allotted to the case some two hours before the applicant appeared
before the court for sentence. In any case, had counsel for the
applicant thought that there was insufficient time to prepare the case,
he was fully entitled to request an adjournment. By failing to request
and adjournment he had indicated that he had ample time to prepare the
case.

The applicant's representative replied that he had been instructed that
counsel had been allotted ten minutes before the case came up. As the
applicant himself was not present at the hearing before the Commission
it was not possible to take the matter further.

Submissions on question of law

Submissions of the respondent Government

In their written observations of 6 December 1971, the Government set
out the relevant provisions of English law applicable to a case of this
type. It was explained that a person who makes a false statement for
the purpose of obtaining a benefit from the Department of Health and
Social Security may be dealt with in one of two ways. First, he may be
charged with an offence under Section 29 of the Ministry of Social
Security Act 1966 which provides that any person who, for the purpose
of obtaining benefit or any other payment under the Act, makes any
statement or representation which he knows to be false, shall be liable
on summary conviction to a maximum of three months' imprisonment and
a fine of £1000. Alternatively, he may be charged with the offence of
obtaining money by deception under Section 15 of the Theft Act 1968.
In this case the maximum punishment is one of ten years' imprisonment.

An attempt to commit a statutory offence is itself a common law offence
and will carry the same maximum punishment as the maximum punishment
for the substantive statutory offence.

There is no provision in English law which precludes a person from
being charged with the more serious offence where the facts are
sufficient so support two possible charges of which one is more serious
than the other.

The offence under Section 29 of the Ministry of Social Security Act
1966 is a summary offence triable by a Magistrates' Court. The offence
under section 15 of the Theft Act 1968 is an indictable offence triable
(prima facie) by a Court of Quarter Sessions. However, under Section
19 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952, a Magistrates' Court may try
an indictable offence summarily if it appears to the Court that the
punishment that it has the power to inflict would be adequate and that
the circumstances do not require the case to be tried on indictment by
a higher court. Before deciding to try such an offence summarily, the
Court must obtain the consent of the accused and must also inform him
that, after conviction, he may be committed to Quarter Sessions for
sentence. He will be so committed if the Court, having obtained
information about his character and antecedents, considers that a
greater punishment should be inflicted than it has the power to
inflict. A Magistrates' Court may on usually impose a sentence of more
than six months' imprisonment.

On the facts of the present case it was open to the prosecuting
authorities to charge the defendant either with a contravention of
Section 29 of the Social Security Act or with the common law offence
of attempting to obtain money by deception. The offence of obtaining
money by deception is covered by Section 15 of the Theft Act while the
attempt to commit this offence is an offence at common law.

During 1970 about 4,000 persons defrauded, or attempted to defraud, the
Social Security. In all of these cases it was open to the authorities
either to charge the persons involved under the Social Security Act or
to charge them under the Theft Act. In fact about 600 prosecutions had
been brought under the Theft Act. The prosecuting authorities take note
of a number of circumstances when deciding whether to prosecute under
the one Act or under the other. One probable reason why the police
decided to charge the present applicant with attempting to commit the
Theft Act offence, was that this offence was "arrestable". The
applicant had no fixed abode. It was necessary, therefore, to charge
him with an offence for which he could be held in custody while
awaiting trial.

There was also a specific explanation in the present case for the fact
that the applicant had been sent to Quarter Sessions for sentence. When
he attempted to defraud the Social Security on 24 June 1970, the
applicant was in breach of a probation order. This order had been
imposed by a court of Quarter Sessions. It was necessary to send him
again to Quarter Sessions if the breach of the probation order were to
be dealt with. A Magistrates' Court could not have dealt with the
breach of probation.

As to legal aid, the Government (Observations, pp. 5 and 6) state that
the Criminal Justice Act 1967 provides for legal aid in criminal
proceedings. Under Section 74 of the Act, a legal aid order normally
authorises representation by both solicitor and counsel. Where a court
of Quarter Sessions makes a legal aid order, it may order
representation by counsel only, if the case is so urgent that there is
no time to instruct a solicitor. In practice it is by no means uncommon
for a defendant who is committed for sentence in a simple case to be
granted legal aid for counsel only. In 1970, over 2,000 convicted
defendants were so represented out of a total of approximately 12,000
committed to a higher court for sentence.

In practice it made no real difference to the applicant that he did not
receive legal aid until the day of his appearance at Quarter Sessions.
There was ample time for him to present his case to counsel. Had there
not been sufficient time, counsel could have requested an adjournment.
The points which the applicant needed to discuss with counsel were all
relatively straightforward. It was wrong to suggest, as was being
suggested on the applicant's behalf during the course of the present
case, that counsel should have been granted sufficient time to consider
the obscure possibility of raising a specially complicated defence on
behalf of the applicant. Counsel had sufficient time to prepare a
defence. Had he needed more time in order to cover a specially
difficult point, he could have requested it and more time would have
been granted.

As to the admissibility of the application the Government therefore
submitted as follows:

The applicant did not apply for legal aid when he appeared before the
Thames Magistrates' Court on 25 June 1970. His complaint about the
inadequacy of legal assistance could not, therefore, relate to those
proceedings. He applied for legal aid when he was to appear before the
Inner London Quarter Sessions; when he appeared before that Court he
was granted representation by counsel who made a speech to the Court
in mitigation after first taking the instructions of the applicant.
There was no indication that either the applicant, or the counsel, had
requested an adjournment. This could have been requested if either felt
that there had been insufficient time for the giving of instructions.

All the applicant's complaints were later considered by the Court of
Appeal which decided that there was no reason to alter the sentences
imposed by Quarter Sessions.

The Government, therefore, submitted that the applicant received
adequate legal representation for the purposes of his case and that he
did not avail himself of the opportunity of putting before Quarter
Sessions, through his counsel, the matters complained of. Furthermore,
he did put these matters before the Court of Appeal which decided,
after full consideration, that there was no reason to interfere with
the sentences. Accordingly, the applicant's complaint that he was not
allowed adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence
and his complaint that he had inadequate legal assistance were both
manifestly ill-founded.

Alternatively, and without prejudice to the foregoing, the Government
submitted that the applicant's complaints related to matters of English
domestic law or to matters which were appropriate to be taken into
account in determining the appropriate sentence. The matter had been
fully considered by the Court of Appeal and the applicant was therefore
inviting the Commission to sit as a tribunal of further instance on
matters which had already been determined by that Court. The Government
suggested that in this respect the Commission might reject the
applicant's complaints as incompatible with the Convention.

Lastly, the Government suggested that there was no evidence of a
violation of Article 7 of the Convention. The applicant had not been
convicted of an offence on account of an act which did not constitute
an offence at the time it was committed. Neither was a heavier penalty
imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the offence was
committed. Any complaint under Article 7 should be rejected as
manifestly ill-founded or, alternatively, as being incompatible with
the Convention.

Submissions of the applicant

At the hearing on 3 and 4 October 1972 the representative of the
applicant made the following submissions.

First, that there had been a breach of Article 7 of the Convention;
secondly, that the English courts had not paid proper attention to this
point and, lastly, that the reason why they had not paid proper
attention was that there had been inadequate time and facilities for
the preparation of the case by counsel at Quarter Sessions. This was,
in itself, a breach of Article 6 of the Convention.

The breach of Article 7 of the Convention could be summed up in the
maxim "generalia specialibus non derogant". The respondent Government
had claimed that the prosecuting authorities were entitled to charge
the applicant with an offense under the Social Security Act or with
attempting to commit an offense under the Theft Act. This was, in the
applicant's submission, incorrect. If a deed could constitute an
offence under two enactments, of which one was more widely drawn that
the other, then the narrower should be preferred. This was an important
question of principle. The purpose of the Convention was to preserve
freedom and the rule of law. It was important in this respect that
States should not be able to enact vague general provisions providing
heavy penalties for ill-defined acts, when the same acts were covered
by precise narrow provisions providing lesser penalties. The principle
in the present case would be applicable to a case where the State had
declared punishable the offence of "acting to the prejudice of the
State" and then made use of this notion to cover acts which were
already covered by more detailed provisions.

Article 7 (1) of the Convention provided  "... nor shall a heavier
penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the
criminal offence was committed". There had been a violation of this
Article. The applicant had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment
for an act which, on a proper reading of the law, had been punishable
at the time it was committed with a maximum of three months'
imprisonment.

There was no indication that the Court of Appeal had considered this
question. It had been brought to the attention of the Court of Appeal
by the applicant when he filed additional grounds of appeal on 29 March
1971. But, when the full Court rejected the application for leave to
appeal on 5 April 1971, there was no indication in the transcript that
the matter had been discussed. There was, furthermore, no indication
that the Court had considered the question whether the applicant had
been validly charged with, and convicted of, the Theft Act offense.

The reason why the point had not been properly taken by the English
courts was that adequate time and facilities had not been granted for
the preparation of the defence. It was not clear whether the applicant
had first been granted counsel ten minutes before his appearance at
Quarter Sessions or whether the time had been a little longer. But it
was clear that he had needed longer than he was given. There was a
complex problem of law in the case and the way in which counsel had
been assigned to it had been improper and inadequate in the
circumstances. It was true that counsel could have requested an
adjournment, but it could only be assumed that he did not do so because
he did not know of the existence of the Social Security Act offence at
the time when he took the applicant's defence.

Furthermore, the Government's explanation to the effect that the
applicant had been prosecuted under the Theft Act because the offence
was then "arrestable" was wholly unsatisfactory. It means that the
completely fortuitous fact that a defendant had no fixed abode would
probably result in his being charged with an offence carrying a maximum
punishment of ten years' imprisonment rather than an offence carrying
a maximum of three months' imprisonment.

THE LAW

The Commission first recalled its partial decision of 29 May 1972 by
which it declared inadmissible the applicant's complaint that he had
been "browbeaten" by the police into pleading guilty, as being
manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (2)
(Art. 27-2), of the Convention.

The Commission then examined in the light of Article 7 (Art. 7) of the
Convention his complaint that he was wrongly convicted and sentenced
for a relatively serious offense when he thought that he had pleaded
guilty to a relatively minor offense. In this respect the Commission
recalled its case-law according to which Article 7 (1) (Art. 7-1) "does
not merely prohibit - except as provided in paragraph (2) (Art. 7-2)-
retroactive application of the criminal law to the detriment of the
accused; it also confirms, in a more general way, the principle of the
statutory nature of offenses and punishment ('nullum crimen, nulla
poena sine lege'); and prohibits, in particular extension of the
application of criminal law 'in malam partem' by analogy.

Although it is not normally for the Commission to ascertain the proper
interpretation of municipal law by national courts, the case is
otherwise in matters where the Convention expressly refers to municipal
law, as it does in Article 7 (Art. 7). Under Article 7 (Art. 7) the
application of the provision of municipal penal law to an act not
covered by the provision in question directly results in a conflict
with the Convention, so that the Commission can and must take
cognisance of allegations of such false interpretation of municipal
law."  (Application No. 1852/63, Yearbook, Vol. 8, pp. 190, 198.)

The Commission's supervisory function, therefore, consists in making
sure that, at the moment when the accused person performed the act
which led to his being prosecuted, there was in force a legal provision
which made that act punishable and that the punishment imposed does not
exceed the limits fixed by that provision. In accordance with the
decision quoted above, this supervisory function further consists in
considering whether the national court, in reaching its decision, has
not unreasonably interpreted, and applied to the applicant, the
municipal law concerned.

In the present case it is not disputed that Section 15 of the Theft Act
1968 provides that "any person who by any deception dishonestly obtains
property belonging to another, with the intention of permanently
depriving the other of it, shall on conviction on indictment be liable
to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years". Nor is it disputed
that an attempt to commit this statutory offence is itself an offence
at Common Law. Furthermore, the Commission finds that the United
Kingdom Court, when convicting and sentencing the applicant for an
offence under Section 15 of the Theft Act in no way exceeded an
reasonable interpretation of that Act or of its application to the
facts of the applicant's case.

An examination by the Commission of this complaint in the light of
Article 7 (Art. 7) of the Convention does not therefore disclose any
violation of that Article. It follows that insofar as the applicant has
alleged a violation of Article 7 (Art. 7) his application is manifestly
ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (2)
(Art. 27-2), of the Convention.

The Commission has next, ex officio, examined the facts of the case in
the light of Article 6 (3) (a) (Art. 6-3-a) of the Convention. This
Article grants to everyone charged with a criminal offence the right
"to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in
detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;".
The applicant was charged with the common law offence of attempting to
obtain money by deception:  that is to say, with attempting to commit
an act which, had he succeeded in committing it, would have been
punishable under Section 15 of the Theft Act. The applicant pleaded
guilty. He did not request legal aid before he made his plea and,
having made it, he was sent to Quarter Sessions for sentence. At
Quarter Sessions he was granted legal aid for counsel only. Had he
thought that there was insufficient time to instruct counsel, he could
have requested an adjournment; this he did not do. Nor when he applied
to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal did he attempt to say that
he had not understood the nature and cause of the accusation against
him.

It appears from the facts of the case that the applicant was informed
of the charge against him in that he was charged with having attempted
to commit an offense punishable under the Theft Act rather than under
the Social Security Act.

However, the Commission is not required to decide whether or not the
facts disclose any appearance of a violation of Article 6 (3) (a)
(Art. 6-3-a) of the Convention as, under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the
Convention, it may only deal with a matter after all domestic remedies
have been exhausted according to the generally recognised rules of
international law. The mere fact that the applicant has submitted his
case to the various competent courts does not of itself constitute
compliance with this rule. It is also required that the substance of
any complaint put before the Commission should have been raised during
the proceedings concerned. In this respect the Commission refers to its
constant jurisprudence (see eg decisions on the admissibility of
applications No. 263/57, Yearbook, Vol. 1, pp. 146, 147 and No.
1103/61, Yearbook, Vol. 5, pp. 158, 186).

In the present case, the applicant chose to plead guilty to the charge
without requesting legal aid and without requesting any further
information as to its "nature". It is true that he requested legal aid
at Quarter Sessions, but only for the purpose of making a plea in
mitigation of sentence. He did not attempt to say that he had not
understood the nature of the charge to which he had pleaded guilty.
Lastly, when he applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal
against his sentence he did not attempt to say that he had not
understood the nature of the charge.

It follows that the applicant has not complied with the condition as
to the exhaustion of domestic remedies and his application must in this
respect be rejected under Article 27 (3) (Art. 27-3), of the
Convention.

The same ground of inadmissibility applies to the applicant's complaint
that the facts of the case constitute a violation of Article 6 (3) (b)
(Art. 6-3-b) of the Convention. Article 6 (3) (b) (Art. 6-3-b) grants
to everyone charged with a criminal offence the right "to adequate time
and facilities for the preparation of his defence".

The applicant has stated that, on the day of his appearance before the
Quarter Sessions, counsel was only allocated to his case ten minutes
before it was due to be heard. The respondent Government have denied
this and have stated that counsel was almost certainly allocated some
hours before the case was heard. But the Government have also claimed
that had the applicant or his counsel wished for an adjournment of the
hearing, then such adjournment could have been requested and would
certainly have been granted. The applicant has admitted that no such
adjournment was requested.

It follows that the applicant has again not complied with the condition
as to the exhaustion of domestic remedies and his application must in
this respect be rejected under Article 27 (3) (Art. 27-3), of the
Convention.

Lastly, the applicant has complained of a violation of Article 6 (3)
(c) (Art. 6-3-c) of the Convention.

This Article secures to everyone the right "to defend himself in person
or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not means
to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of
justice so require".

However, on the facts of the present case there does not appear to be
any sign of a violation of this Article. The applicant was granted free
legal assistance. It is true that he was refused legal aid for
solicitor and counsel, and that he was granted legal aid for counsel
only, but there is no indication whatsoever that the applicant needed
the help of two lawyers. The requirements of Article 6 (3) (c)
(Art. 6-3-c) of the Convention were accordingly met.

It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded
within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (2) (Art. 27-2), of the
Convention.

For these reasons, the Commission DECLARES THIS APPLICATION
INADMISSIBLE