EIT: Asianajajille tuomitut sakot oikeuden halventamisesta eivät kuulu EIS:n tarkoittamien rikosasioiden piiriin22.12.2020 | Oikeusuutiset
Fine imposed on two Icelandic lawyers for contempt of court: the criminal limb of the Convention does not apply to the procedure
In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Gestur Jónsson and Ragnar Halldór Hall v. Iceland (application nos. 68273/14 and 68271/14) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that the applications were incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention and declared the applicants’ complaints inadmissible.
The case concerned two lawyers who were fined in absentia by the district court for contempt of court because they had withdrawn from their roles as defence lawyers in a criminal trial. In spite of the district court’s refusal to allow them to withdraw from the case, the two applicants had failed to attend the hearing in order to represent their clients.
The district court held that they had intentionally caused undue delay in the case. Before the Court, the applicants alleged that there had been a breach of their rights as safeguarded by:
– the criminal limb of Article 6 (right to a fair hearing) of the European Convention on Human Rights, considering that the proceedings brought against them concerned a “criminal charge”, and
– Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the Convention, alleging that they had been convicted of an offence which did not constitute a criminal offence under national law and that the penalty imposed on them had not been foreseeable.
The Court found that Articles 6 and 7 of the Convention were not applicable in the present case, since the contested proceedings did not concern a “criminal charge” within the meaning of Article 6 of the Convention, and that the disputed fines could not be regarded as a “penalty” within the meaning of Article 7 of the Convention. The applications were therefore rejected. The Court noted, in particular, that the conduct attributed to the two lawyers could not be sanctioned by imprisonment, that the fines at issue could not be converted into deprivation of liberty in the event of non-payment, and that they were not entered on the applicants’ criminal record.
The Court also reiterated that measures ordered by courts under the rules in question were more akin to the exercise of disciplinary powers than to the imposition of a punishment for committing a criminal offence.