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Unreasonably Delayed Trial I ECtHR Practice

“Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time...”

art. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Since 1959, the European Court of Justice has heard about 6,000 complaints about the breach of reasonable time. According to statistics, it is the "excessive length of proceedings" that is the most popular complaint to the ECtHR. Yes, there have already been more than 4,000 such appeals against Ukraine alone!

What is a "reasonable time" and "excessive length of proceedings" and how does the European Court of Human Rights define it in practice? - read in our publication.

In fact, there is no clear answer to the question of how many years the proceedings can last in order not to violate human rights.

In the case of ZIAJA v. Poland, the applicant's proceedings for 11 years had been declared a violation. In the case of Adiletta v. Italy, the proceedings lasted 13 years and 6 months. Thus, only 5 years passed between the transfer of the case to the investigator and the interrogation of the accused and witnesses, and 1 year and 9 months between the return of the case for additional investigation and a new referral to court). In Ekle v. Germany, the trial lasted for 17 years and 3 weeks, which was clearly contrary to Article 6 of the Convention.

However, quite often the Court finds a violation of Article 6 of the Convention in cases that have been heard for a much shorter time. Thus, in the case of Zimmerman and Steiner v. Switzerland, the term of 3.5 years was declared excessive, and in the case of Bochan v. Ukraine - 3 years and 1 month. It should be noted that such conclusions are usually made by the Court in civil cases that are not of such importance and critical need for lengthy consideration.

On the other hand, meeting deadlines in criminal proceedings is particularly important, as the accused suffers too much, being in a state of uncertainty about his future if his case cannot be resolved for years.

What are the criteria for determining a "reasonable time"?

In order to determine whether there has been a violation of Article 6 of the Convention, the ECtHR finds in each case:

1. Complexity and scale of the case:

Sometimes the need for expertise, international communications, the involvement of a large number of participants, etc. can justify the length of such a case.

For example, in the case of Neumeister v. Austria, the trial lasted 7 years and 4 months, but the Court did not find a violation of a reasonable time in the case because

The illegal transactions had branches in different countries, necessitating the involvement of Interpol and the application of legal aid agreements to conduct investigations abroad, as well as the summoning of 22 people, some from abroad.

2. The importance of a speedy resolution of the case for the applicant:

It is clear that in criminal proceedings, it depends on the progress of the case whether the applicant will be detained and, accordingly, imprisoned.

3. Responsibility of the applicant's own conduct:

That is to say, the Court examines whether the applicant's intentional actions did not cause such a delay. Thus, in the case of Chiricosta and Viola v. Italy, the ECtHR upheld the 15-year time-limit, as the applicants themselves had requested the adjournment 17 times and had not objected to the 6 adjournments made on the basis of the other party's application.

4. Guilty actions of the authorities:

It is important for the Court to prove that the delay was indeed the fault of investigators, judges and the prosecutor's office or other authorities.

How to increase your chances that the appeal to the ECtHR regarding the length of the proceedings will be successful?

Anyone wishing to challenge the procrastination of their case in court should keep in mind that criminal procedure provides for several ways to exhaust national remedies:

1) submit a request of a lawyer to a court or an investigating judge to set a clear deadline for the completion of a specific stage of the proceedings within the deadline (provided for in Article 114 of the CPC of Ukraine)

2) request to close the proceedings due to the expiration of reasonable time for investigation (provided for in Article 284 of the CPC of Ukraine)

3) to appeal to the prosecutor of the highest level of non-compliance with reasonable time limits (provided for in Article 308 of the CPC of Ukraine)

Any questions about the application to the ECHR? Ask them our lawyers:

  • our number;

  • via CHАТ (below);

  • visit our office: Кyiv, Solomyanska square, 2, office 801

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