Court decisions regarding others, referred to the applicant’s guilt without her being a party. Violation of the presumption of innocence and action for damages.

JUDGMENT

Januškevičienė v. Lithuania 03.09.2019 (no. 69717/14)

see here

SUMMARY 

Presumption of innocence and lawsuit for violations. Non-exhaustion of internal remedies.

The possibility of bringing an action for infringement of the presumption of innocence and having regard to the positive case-law of national courts which have awarded damages for infringement of the presumption of innocence is an effective remedy and the applicant should have followed it.

The applicant complained that, in criminal proceedings against third parties, the national courts had issued judgments stating that she had committed criminal offenses within a criminal organization, despite the fact that no court had found her guilty. However, the applicant did not bring any action for damages for breach of the presumption of innocence in the petitions brought against her by the national decisions. According to Strasbourg, the action before the civil courts did not appear to be an ineffective remedy in respect of the applicant’s complaint and there were no exceptional circumstances which would exempt her from the obligation to avail herself of that domestic remedy. If he did not bring an action, he did not exhaust his internal remedies. Non-infringement of Articles 6 and 13 of the ECHR.

PROVISIONS

Article 6

Article 13

PRINCIPAL FACTS 

The applicant, Ms Vida Januškevičienė, is a Lithuanian national who was born in 1955 and lives in
Vilnius.

The case concerned her complaint that court judgments in cases concerning other defendants had
stated that she had committed criminal offences, although she herself had not been tried in those
proceedings.

In 2007 the Vilnius office of the Financial Crime Investigation Service gave official notice to the
applicant that she and other individuals were suspected of various fraud-related crimes as part of an
organised group, including false invoicing.

The investigation was subsequently split and several trials were held. In particular, courts in 2009,
2012 and 2014 convicted other defendants. The courts’ judgments included statements such as the
applicant and others having received falsified invoices and cash and that those on trial had acted in
concert with the applicant and others.

Finalised charges were brought against the applicant in 2014 and the case went to trial. However,
the court discontinued the proceedings as time-barred in 2018.

The applicant complained in particular that she had not been able to appeal against the judgments
against third parties which had affected her right to the presumption of innocence. The Court dealt
with that complaint under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on
Human Rights.

THE DECISION OF THE COURT

Article 6 § 2: The Government submitted that, under domestic law, the applicant had the opportunity to lodge a civil action and to obtain financial compensation for the breach of her honor and reputation.

A remedy under civil law could, in principle, be considered effective in relation to alleged violations of the presumption of innocence. The Government had provided examples of internal case law where individuals in national court rulings had argued that the reports they had presented as perpetrators of criminal offenses had violated their honor and reputation. One of these individuals had succeeded in receiving financial compensation. The lawsuit brought by the civil courts referred to by the Government does not appear to be an ineffective remedy in respect of the applicant’s complaint about her right to be presumed innocent and there are no exceptional circumstances which would exempt the applicant from the obligation to benefit from the domestic law in question. appeal.

In those circumstances, the Court found that the applicant had not exhausted the national remedies in relation to its complaint under Article 6 § 2 of the Convention.

Conclusion: Inadmissible appeal (failure to exhaust internal remedies).

The Court also found, by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 13, since the applicant had an effective remedy under civil law.

 

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