Twice prosecution and punishment by criminal and administrative courts for hooliganism during a football match. Violation of the principle of ne bis in idem

JUDGMENT

Velkov v. Bulgaria 21.07.2020 (app. no. 34503/10)

see here 

SUMMARY

The case concerned the applicant’s complaint that he had been convicted twice of the same offence
of breaching the peace during a football match.

The Court found that, while there had been a close connection in time between the administrative
and criminal proceedings against the applicant, there had not been a sufficiently close connection in
substance between the two sets of proceedings.

The Court therefore held that, given the lack of a sufficiently close connection in substance between
the administrative and criminal proceedings against the applicant, he had been prosecuted and
punished twice for the same offence, in breach of the ne bis in idem principle.

PROVISION

Article 4 of  Protocol  No. 7

PRINCIPAL FACTS

The applicant, Ivan Marinov Velkov, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1974 and lives in Plovdiv
(Bulgaria).

On 17 May 2008 two coaches with supporters of Lokomotiv Plovdiv (a football club playing in the
Bulgarian premier league), including Mr Velkov, stopped near the Sandanski municipal stadium,
where a match was taking place between the local team and CSKA Sofia. The Lokomotiv supporters
got out of the coaches, walked towards the stadium, tried to enter it, threw objects towards the
CSKA supporters’ stand and the police officers providing security, and broke the windows of several
vehicles parked in the stadium car park. The match was interrupted. At 8.50 p.m. on the same day,
the prosecutor’s office ordered Mr Velkov’s detention for 72 hours.

On 18 May 2008 the police issued administrative-offence notices against Mr Velkov and six other
Lokomotiv Plovdiv supporters and brought proceedings for an administrative penalty to be imposed
on them.

On 29 May 2008 the Sandanski District Court found Mr Velkov guilty of breaching the peace during
the football match on 17 May 2008. It ordered his imprisonment for 15 days and banned him from
attending sporting events for two years.

In parallel with the administrative proceedings, the Sandanski district prosecutor’s office initiated
criminal proceedings against Mr Velkov for breaching the peace.

On 21 May 2008 the Sandanski District Court decided to remand him in custody.

On 10 July 2008 the Sandanski district prosecutor’s office issued an indictment. The applicant was
accused of insulting police officers and other supporters, disobeying and offering resistance to the
police and throwing stones at the officers and CSKA supporters during the football match on 17 May
2008. On 20 January 2009 the Sandanski District Court found Mr Velkov guilty on all charges and
sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment. He appealed against the decision.

On 24 April 2009 the Blagoevgrad Regional Court discontinued Mr Velkov’s provisional detention
and placed him under house arrest. That measure was lifted on 12 June 2009.

The Blagoevgrad Regional Court dismissed Mr Velkov’s appeal against his conviction and sentence of
20 January 2009. On 11 June 2010 Mr Velkov lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Cassation.

That court dismissed his appeal, taking the view that the Regional Court had based its decision on
the applicable rules of domestic law and that the sanction had been correctly determined.

THE DECISION OF THE COURT…

Article 4 of Protocol No. 7

The Court noted that the applicant’s actions had given rise to two separate sets of proceedings, each
concerning “criminal charges”. It also observed that the offences for which he had been punished in
both sets of proceedings related to the same wrongful conduct occurring during the same sporting
event.

The two sets of proceedings had started at the same time and had been conducted in parallel until
29 May 2008, when the administrative proceedings had been concluded by a final judgment. The
criminal proceedings had carried on and had concluded more than two years and four months later,
in October 2010. In view of its case-law, the Court therefore considered that there had been a
sufficiently close connection in time between the two sets of proceedings.

As to the existence of a connection in substance between the two sets of proceedings, the Court
noted firstly that the administrative and criminal proceedings had pursued essentially the same
purpose, namely to punish the breach of the peace caused by the applicant during the football
match on 17 May 2008. Secondly, the establishment of the facts in the administrative proceedings
had not been taken into account in the criminal proceedings. Thirdly, the custodial sentence
imposed following the administrative proceedings had not been taken into consideration in the criminal courts’ decisions. The Court attached particular importance to the fact that the two sets of
proceedings had pursued the same punitive purpose.

In the light of these considerations, the Court held that there had not been a sufficiently close
connection in substance between the administrative and criminal proceedings against the applicant.
In sum, the Court held in particular that, given the lack of a sufficiently close connection in substance
between the administrative and criminal proceedings against the applicant, those proceedings could
not be regarded as forming part of an integral scheme of sanctions under domestic law aimed at
combating the phenomenon of sports hooliganism. Hence, the applicant had been prosecuted and
punished twice for the same offence, in breach of the ne bis in idem principle.

There had therefore been a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The Court held that Bulgaria was to pay the applicant 2,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary
damage and EUR 3,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

 


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