Police violence is tantamount to degrading treatment
Tiziana Pennino v. Italy 12/10/2017 (no. 21759/15)
Checking a woman driver to see if she was driving while drunk. Pushes and injuries by the police officers who carried out the check (kicks, pushes). Sentencing Italy for degrading treatment.
The applicant, Tiziana Pennino, is an Italian national who was born in 1969 and lives in Benevento (Italy). The case concerned her allegations of ill-treatment by the police and her complaint that there had been no adequate investigation into the matter.
Ms Pennino submits that, in the afternoon of 2 April 2013, after being stopped in her car by the Benevento municipal police – who suspected her of being intoxicated, which she denied – she was ill-treated by several officers. In particular, when she had returned to her car, one officer dragged her out by her arm. She was taken to the municipal police station where an officer started drafting an offence report for drunk driving. Her requests to use the telephone were denied. When she tried to pick up a telephone, one officer hit her. He twisted her arms behind her back and handcuffed her.
Once she started screaming, the officer removed the handcuffs in a violent manner, thus fracturing her thumb and causing injuries to her wrists.
According to the police reports, Ms Pennino was stopped because she had been driving in an erratic manner. She smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on her feet and insulted and threatened the police officers. At the municipal police station, she again insulted and threatened the officers. After she had pushed and kicked two of them, she was handcuffed, but the handcuffs were removed after she had calmed down.
Medical reports of two hospitals, where Ms Pennino was examined on the same day after leaving the police station and again on the two following days, noted that her thumb was fractured and that she had bruises resulting from traumatic injury on several parts of her body.
Ms Pennino lodged a criminal complaint against the officers who had stopped her in her car and the other officers who had been present at the police station, alleging in particular assault and infliction of bodily harm. The investigation was eventually discontinued in October 2014 despite her objection in which she had complained that the investigators had neither questioned her nor the officers who had allegedly been involved in the ill-treatment at the police station.
Criminal proceedings were brought against Ms Pennino on a number of charges. She was given a suspended sentence of 28 days’ imprisonment for causing bodily harm to a police officer. The proceedings were suspended as far as the remaining charges were concerned.
Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Ms Pennino complained of having been ill-treated by the police and of the ensuing investigation which, she maintained, had been neither thorough nor effective.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
Violation of Article 3 (treatment)
Violation of Article 3 (investigation)
Just satisfaction: 12,000 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 8,000 (costs and expenses)(echrcaselaw.com editing).