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ECHR finds Italy guilty of violating Article 6(1) – the right to a fair and public hearing. Orders state to pay compensation.
Compensation awarded to the Applicant in Lorenzetti v Italy
Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights presided over the case of Lorenzetti v Italy (Application No. 32075/09); eventually finding the Italian State guilty of violating Article 6(1) European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) - the right to a fair and public hearing.
Mr. Pietro Lorenzetti, the applicant, is an Italian citizen born in Syracuse, Sicily. Mr. Lorenzetti is a doctor by profession, but was arrested in December 2000 after being accused of having defrauded the hospital at which he worked. As there was substantial evidence against him, Mr. Lorenzetti was placed in pre-trial detention, and then subsequently released 3 days later.
The main allegations against the applicant were that he had received his doctor’s salary without actually being at work. Although initially found guilty in June 2003 by the Syracuse Court, Mr. Lorenzetti was eventually acquitted by the Court of Appeal of Catania in December 2004, with the decision becoming final on May 2005. The acquittal of the Court of Appeal was on the grounds that the material element of the offence was lacking, i.e. there was no crime committed (“perchè il fatto non sussiste”). However, the Court did point out that although Mr. Lorenzetti did not commit a fraud, he was guilty of misconduct from a disciplinary point of view due to his absence without justification.
In November 2006, Mr. Lorenzetti asked the Court of Appeal of Catania for compensation for being unfairly detained, using Art. 314(1) Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP). The appeal took place in the Council Chamber (Camera di Consiglio) in the presence of counsel for the applicant. The Court of Appeal rejected the applicant’s request for compensation stating that his various unjustified absences from work had contributed to cause suspicion against him, and thereby he had caused his detention by gross negligence. In January 2009, the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) affirmed the Court of Appeal’s findings, and dismissed the applicant’s appeal.
Mr. Lorenzetti applied to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming a violation of his right to a fair and public trial under Art. 6(1) of the Convention. In particular, he complained that the hearings had not been public. The Italian government protested against the accusation, claiming that a simple review of the file in the Council Chamber was necessary as to not cause an overload of procedures nor create excessive waiting periods.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that there was indeed a breach of Art. 6(1) which states “Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing”. The Court declared that the handling of the case in the Council Chamber without allowing the applicant the possibility to request and obtain a public hearing to be a violation. Most significantly, the Court highlighted the fact that in cases where there is a demand for compensation due to “unjust” preventive detention, the applicants must at least be offered the opportunity to request a public hearing before the Court of Appeal.
Although Art. 6(1) does provide for instances where the public may be excluded from the trial, the ECHR did not find that any of these exceptions applied.
The Italian State was therefore ordered to compensate Mr. Lorenzetti £2,500.
Avv. Gabriele Giambrone, Senior Partner of Giambrone Law ILP commented, “The outcome of this case is significant in that it clarifies the special circumstances called for in cases involving a compensation request following an unjust preventive detention. The European Court of Human Rights has underlined the necessity that an applicant be able to request a public hearing in such cases. Although the compensation was not an incredibly large amount, the principle in itself is one which Italian state officials must take note of. The right to a fair and public hearing is a fundamental right for everyone, and this right becomes even more significant when the trial concerns a mistake made by the State.”
If you have been unfairly detained and would like some advice on your rights - please contact our experienced legal team.
Iain James Buchan
Avv. Gabriele Giambrone
Giambrone Law ILP
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