Casanovas v France, UN Human Rights Committee (2006) (excerpts)

Casanovas v France, UN Human Rights Committee Communication 1514/2006 (excerpts)

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11.3 As to the author’s claim of a violation of article 14, paragraph 1, the Committee takes note
of the author’s allegation that his right to have his case heard by a court that would weigh the
merits of the criminal charges against him was violated by the obligation to pay the deposit. It
recalls that the author was not required to pay the fines as such in order to have access to a court
but to deposit an amount equivalent to the fines.10 According to the State party, this system was
put in place to improve efficiency in an area which engenders a very large number of cases. The
Committee notes that the right of access to a court is not absolute and is subject to certain
restrictions. These restrictions must not, however, limit access to the courts to such an extent that
the very substance of the right of access to justice is undermined. In the present case, the
Committee observes that the system put in place by the State party is used only for relatively
small fines and that the amount of the deposit did not exceed that of the fixed fine under
article 529-10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It notes that the author does not invoke any
financial difficulties preventing him from paying the deposit within the set time limit. The
Committee considers such a system as having a legitimate aim, in particular that of ensuring the
proper administration of justice, and as being unlikely to undermine the substance of the author’s
right of access to the police court. As to the author’s argument that his application was dismissed
by an officer of the public prosecutor’s department, rather than by a judge, the Committee notes
that the decision in question was an administrative not a judicial one, requiring the officer only to
determine whether the conditions of admissibility had been met. The Committee further notes
that, under French law, the officer of the public prosecutor’s department had the right to take the
decision to dismiss the application for failure to pay the deposit. If the author had paid the
deposit, he would have had access to the police court, which would have provided him with an
effective remedy. Under these circumstances, the Committee finds that, in the present case, the
obligation to pay a deposit does not impair either the author’s right of access to a court or his
right to an effective remedy. The Committee therefore concludes that the facts before it do not
disclose a violation of article 14, paragraph 1, or article 2, paragraphs 3 (a) and (b), of the
Covenant.