European Court of Human Rights - case of Andreucci v. Italy (1992)

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

In the case of Andreucci v. Italy*,

The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance

with Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of

Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention")** and the

relevant provisions of the Rules of Court, as a Chamber composed of

the following judges:

Mr R. Ryssdal, President,

Mr F. Matscher,

Mr B. Walsh,

Mr C. Russo,

Mr A. Spielmann,

Mr N. Valticos,

Mr A.N. Loizou,

Mr J.M. Morenilla,

Mr F. Bigi,

and also of Mr M.-A. Eissen, Registrar, and Mr H. Petzold, Deputy

Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 30 October 1991 and

24 January 1992,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the

last-mentioned date:

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Notes by the Registrar

* The case is numbered 33/1991/285/356. The first number is the

case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the

relevant year (second number). The last two numbers indicate the

case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its

creation and on the list of the corresponding originating

applications to the Commission.

** As amended by Article 11 of Protocol No. 8 (P8-11), which came

into force on 1 January 1990.

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PROCEDURE

1. The case was referred to the Court on 8 March 1991 by the

European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission"), within the

three-month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47

(art. 32-1, art. 47) of the Convention. It originated in an

application (no. 12955/87) against the Italian Republic lodged with

the Commission under Article 25 (art. 25) by an Italian national,

Mr Aldo Andreucci, on 23 May 1987.

The Commission's request referred to Articles 44 and 48

(art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration whereby Italy recognised

the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46).

The object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the

facts of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its

obligations under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

2. In response to the enquiry made in accordance with

Rule 33 para. 3 (d) of the Rules of Court, the applicant stated that he

wished to take part in the proceedings and designated the lawyer who

would represent him (Rule 30).

3. On 23 April 1991 the President of the Court decided that,

pursuant to Rule 21 para. 6 and in the interests of the proper

administration of justice, this case and the cases of Diana, Ridi,

Casciaroli, Manieri, Mastrantonio, Idrocalce S.r.l., Owners'

Services Ltd, Cardarelli, Golino, Taiuti, Maciariello,

Manifattura FL, Steffano, Ruotolo, Vorrasi, Cappello, G. v. Italy,

Caffè Roversi S.p.a., Gana, Barbagallo, Cifola, Pandolfelli and

Palumbo, Arena, Pierazzini, Tusa, Cooperativa Parco Cuma,

Serrentino, Cormio, Lorenzi, Bernardini and Gritti and Tumminelli*

should be heard by the same Chamber.

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* Cases nos. 3/1991/255/326 to 13/1991/265/336; 15/1991/267/338;

16/1991/268/339; 18/1991/270/341; 20/1991/272/343; 22/1991/274/345;

24/1991/276/347; 25/1991/277/348; 36/1991/288/359; 38/1991/290/361;

40/1991/292/363 to 44/1991/296/367; 50/1991/302/373;

51/1991/303/374; 58/1991/310/381; 59/1991/311/382; 61/1991/313/384

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4. The Chamber to be constituted for this purpose included ex

officio Mr C. Russo, the elected judge of Italian nationality

(Article 43 of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the

President of the Court (Rule 21 para. 3 (b)). On the same day, in the

presence of the Registrar, the President drew by lot the names of

the other seven members, namely Mr F. Matscher, Mr J. Pinheiro

Farinha, Sir Vincent Evans, Mr A. Spielmann, Mr I. Foighel, Mr J.M.

Morenilla and Mr F. Bigi (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and

Rule 21 para. 4) (art. 43).

Subsequently, Mr B. Walsh, Mr A.N. Loizou and

Mr N. Valticos, substitute judges, replaced respectively

Mr Pinheiro Farinha and Sir Vincent Evans, who had both resigned and

whose successors had taken up their duties before the deliberations

held on 30 October, and Mr Foighel, who was unable to take part in the

further consideration of the case (Rules 2 para. 3, 22 para. 1 and

24 para. 1).

5. Mr Ryssdal assumed the office of President of the Chamber

(Rule 21 para. 5) and, through the Deputy Registrar, consulted the Agent

of the Italian Government ("the Government"), the Delegate of the

Commission and the applicant's lawyer on the organisation of the

proceedings (Rules 37 para. 1 and 38). In accordance with the order

made in consequence, the Registrar received the memorial of the

applicant - whom the President had authorised to use the Italian

language (Rule 27 para. 3) - on 15 July 1991 and the Government's

memorial on 16 July. By a letter received on 22 August, the

Secretary to the Commission informed the Registrar that the Delegate

did not consider it necessary to reply thereto.

6. On 28 June 1991 the Chamber had decided to dispense with a

hearing, having found that the conditions for such derogation from

the usual procedure were satisfied (Rules 26 and 38).

7. On 28 August the Commission produced the file on the

proceedings before it, as requested by the Registrar on the

President's instructions.

8. On 10 October and 5 November, respectively, the Government

and the Commission filed their observations on the applicant's

claims for just satisfaction (Article 50 of the Convention)

(art. 50).

AS TO THE FACTS

9. Mr Aldo Andreucci is an Italian national and resides in

Rome. The facts established by the Commission pursuant to

Article 31 para. 1 (art. 31-1) of the Convention are as follows

(paragraphs 16-19 of its report):

"16. On 18 March 1985 the applicant brought an action for

damages before the Rome District Court in respect of the

injuries caused by an assault on him during a dispute with a

Mr S. and his parents.

17. The investigation commenced at the hearing of

30 April 1985 and continued at hearings on 21 October 1985

and 18 February 1986, on which date the District Court

directed that the opinion of a medical expert be taken. The

hearing of 11 March 1986 was adjourned owing to the absence

of the expert appointed. The expert was sworn in at the

hearing on 19 May 1986 and was given ninety days as from

5 June 1986 to lodge his opinion. As the deadline was not

met, the hearing of 3 November 1986 was postponed to

2 December 1986.

18. At the close of the hearing on 9 February 1987, the

investigation was concluded and the investigating judge

directed that the hearing before the appropriate chamber of

the court take place on 22 February 1989. At an unspecified

date, the District Court allowed the applicant's claim.

19. The text of the decision was lodged with the

registry on 15 October 1989. ..."

10. Before the European Court, the applicant confirmed that no

appeal had been lodged. On 14 November 1989 the defendants paid to

him the amount awarded by the District Court.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

11. Mr Andreucci lodged his application with the Commission on

23 May 1987. He complained of the length of the civil proceedings

brought by him and relied on Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the

Convention.

12. On 11 May 1990 the Commission declared the application

(no. 12955/87) admissible. In its report of 15 January 1991

(Article 31) (art. 31), it expressed the unanimous opinion that

there had been a violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1). The full

text of the Commission's opinion is reproduced as an annex to this

judgment*.

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* Note by the Registrar: for practical reasons this annex will

appear only with the printed version of the judgment (volume 228-G

of Series A of the Publications of the Court), but a copy of the

Commission's report is obtainable from the registry.

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AS TO THE LAW

I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 (art. 6-1)

13. The applicant claimed that his civil action had not been

tried within a "reasonable time" as required under Article 6 para. 1

(art. 6-1) of the Convention, according to which:

"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations

..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a

reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ..."

The Government disputed this view, whereas the Commission

accepted it.

14. The period to be taken into consideration began on

18 March 1985 when the proceedings against Mr S. and his parents

were instituted in the Rome District Court. It ended, at the

latest, on 14 November 1989 (see paragraph 10 above).

15. The reasonableness of the length of proceedings is to be

assessed with reference to the criteria laid down in the Court's

case-law and in the light of the circumstances of the case, which in

this instance call for an overall assessment.

16. The Government invoked the complexity of the facts and the

excessive workload of the District Court. In addition, the

applicant had not requested that his case be dealt with more

rapidly.

Mr Andreucci, on the other hand, considered that the case had

been a very simple one; the period of just over two years between

the final investigation hearing (9 February 1987) and the trial

hearing (22 February 1989) had in his opinion, in itself, infringed

Article 6 (art. 6).

The Commission took the view that "the complex features of

the case" were not sufficient to justify the length of the

proceedings. It drew attention to a period of inactivity from

9 February 1987 to 22 February 1989.

17. The Court notes that the investigation took almost

twenty-three months, after which two years elapsed before the trial

hearing.

As regards the first of these periods, the investigating

judge failed to carry out with proper diligence his duty of

supervising the work of the expert (see the Capuano v. Italy

judgment of 25 June 1987, Series A no. 119, p. 13, para. 30), but the

number of witnesses called must be taken into account, as must the

fact that the examination of one of them necessitated a request for

evidence to be taken on commission.

The second period appears on the face of it excessive. The

Government pleaded the backlog of cases in the Rome District Court,

but Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) imposes on the Contracting States the

duty to organise their legal systems in such a way that their courts

can meet each of its requirements (see, inter alia, the Vocaturo

v. Italy judgment of 24 May 1991, Series A no. 206-C, p. 32, para. 17).

The period in question would nevertheless seem to be acceptable if

viewed in the context of the total duration of the proceedings, as

it must be.

18. Accordingly, the delays which occurred in the proceedings

were not so substantial as to violate Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY

Holds that there has been no violation of Article 6 para. 1

(art. 6-1).

Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public

hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on

27 February 1992.

Signed: Rolv RYSSDAL

President

Signed: Marc-André EISSEN

Registrar