European Court of Human Rights delivers judgment on case concerning right to fair hearing
On 9 November 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered a judgment on a case concerning the right to a fair hearing. The Court ruled that there had been no violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a fair hearing).
In the case, the applicant is a licensed legal counsel, whose licence was revoked by a decision of the Board on Trial Counsel in 2015.
The applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal held an oral hearing. After the hearing, it decided to transfer the case to an extended composition. The extended composition decided to hold a new oral hearing. The Court of Appeal upheld the Board’s decision.
The applicant appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted him leave to appeal. The applicant claimed that the Court of Appeal had acted incorrectly when it transferred his case to an extended composition. The applicant also argued that the Senior Judge of the Court of Appeal, who decided on the transfer, was biased.
The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling. The Supreme Court did not find any grounds for doubting the impartiality of the Senior Judge or that the conditions for the transfer had objectively been met. The Supreme Court also found that there were no grounds for doubting that the lawful extended composition had not acted independently and impartially.
In his appeal to the ECtHR, the applicant complained that there had been a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that the Court of Appeal re-examined his case without cause. The applicant also claimed that the Senior Judge of the Court of Appeal had been biased.
The ECtHR held, by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 6 of the Convention when the Court of Appeal decided to transfer the examination of the applicant’s case to an extended composition.
The ECtHR found that the criteria for transferring the case to an extended composition were clearly set out in the legislation. The purpose of the rule on such transfer is to provide a sound and broad basis for authority in respect of important rulings regardless whether or not an earlier composition of judges had deliberated on the case. Moreover, the transfer of the case did not lead to any loss of opportunity for the applicant to participate in the decision-making process. There were also other procedural safeguards. Moreover, the Supreme Court had full jurisdiction to examine the merits of the case as it had granted the applicant leave to appeal. Moreover, the Supreme Court had the power to remedy any possible defects in the proceedings of the Court of Appeal.
The ECtHR did not find any evidence of personal bias on the part of the Senior Judge of the Court of Appeal who made the transfer decision. The ECtHR referred to the detailed explanation by the Supreme Court as to how the criteria of the applicable regulation were to be interpreted and how they had been met in the applicant’s case. It concluded that there was no reason to doubt that the transfer was objectively justified and that a plausible explanation of the procedures had been given. The applicable legislation was accessible to the applicant. The ECtHR found that the proceedings provided sufficient guarantees to exclude any legitimate doubt in respect of the Court of Appeal’s impartiality.
Read the Judgment on the ECtHR website(Link to another website.) (Opens New Window).
- Krista Oinonen, Director of the Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, Agent of the Finnish Government before the ECtHR, tel. +358 295 351 172
- Satu Sistonen, Legal Officer, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, tel. +358 295 351 789
- The email addresses of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs are in the format [email protected].