EIT ei nähnyt ongelmaa tutkintavankeuden jatkamisessa tunnustuksen jälkeen – suomalaisvalitus ilmeisen perusteeton12.10.2023 | Oikeusuutiset
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 19 September 2023 as a Committee composed of:
- Egidijus Kūris, President,
- Pauliine Koskelo,
- Frédéric Krenc, judges,
- and Dorothee von Arnim, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to:
the application (no. 1277/22) against the Republic of Finland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on 16 December 2021 by a Finnish national, Mr Jesse Joonas Lähteenmäki, who changed his name to Joonas Peltonen) (“the applicant”), who was born in 1987 and was represented by Mr T. Turunen, a lawyer practising in Helsinki;
the decision to give notice of the application to the Finnish Government (“the Government”), represented by their Agent, Ms Krista Oinonen, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
the parties’ observations;
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CASE
1. The application concerns a complaint under Article 5 of the Convention relating to the refusal of the applicant’s request to be released from detention following his confession.
2. On 11 December 2020 the applicant was detained on remand, as there were reasonable grounds to consider that he had participated in an aggravated narcotics offence and an aggravated firearm offence. His detention on remand was ordered as there was reason to suspect that the applicant would obstruct the investigation or the trial by destroying, altering or concealing evidence or influencing an accomplice.
3. On 3 March 2021 charges were brought against the applicant and other persons who had also been implicated. On 7 March 2021, when questioned by the police, the applicant confessed to having smuggled narcotics from the Netherlands to Finland. On 17 March 2021 the hearing of the case against the accused commenced in the District Court. On the following day, 18 March 2021, the applicant requested to be released from detention as he had confessed and there was thus no longer a reason to detain him by reference to a risk that he might influence his co-accused. On the same day the District Court refused his request. On 26 March 2021 the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal lodged by the applicant against the District Court’s refusal. The courts considered that there was still a risk of collusion and of the applicant influencing his co-accused. On 25 May 2021 the applicant lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal’s decision. On 16 June 2021 the Supreme Court refused the applicant leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision.
4. The applicant complained before the Court that, as he had confessed on 17 March 2021 to smuggling narcotics, there had not been any relevant or sufficient grounds, as required by Article 5 of the Convention, for keeping him detained thereafter.
THE COURT’S ASSESSMENT
5. The applicant’s complaint about the lack of relevant and sufficient reasons justifying the continuation of his detention after his confession falls to be examined under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.
6. The general principles regarding the application of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention in circumstances such as those at issue in the present application have been set out in, among other authorities, Buzadji v. the Republic of Moldova ([GC], no. 23755/07, §§ 84-91 and 102, 5 July 2016) and Merabishvili v. Georgia ([GC], no. 72508/13, §§ 222 and 225, 28 November 2017). For the purposes of the present analysis, the Court reiterates that it has stated that the persistence of a reasonable suspicion that the detainee has committed an offence is a sine qua non for the validity of his or her continued detention. However, when the national judicial authorities first examine, “promptly” after the arrest, whether to place the arrestee in pre-trial detention, that suspicion no longer suffices, and the authorities must also give other relevant and sufficient grounds to justify the detention. Those other grounds may be a risk of flight, a risk of pressure being brought to bear on witnesses or of evidence being tampered with, a risk of collusion, a risk of reoffending, or a risk of public disorder and the related need to protect the detainee. Those risks must be duly substantiated, and the authorities’ reasoning on those points cannot be abstract, general or stereotyped.
7. The Court has also stated that in the long term, the requirements of the investigation may not suffice to justify the detention of a suspect, as, in the normal course of events, the risk of collusion must be regarded as significantly less relevant once the evidence has been gathered, the investigation terminated and a bill of indictment preferred (see, for example, Gál v. Hungary, no. 62631/11, § 44, 11 March 2014). The Court has, however, depending on the circumstances of a case, accepted, for example, that the risk of tampering with evidence existed for some time after the start of the proceedings, at least until the witnesses testified in court (see, for instance, Ugulava v. Georgia, no. 5432/15, § 110, 9 February 2023, and Khodorkovskiy v. Russia, no. 5829/04, § 192, 31 May 2011).
8. Turning to the facts of the present case, the Court observes that the domestic courts gave several reasons to justify the need for the applicant’s continued detention. Firstly, they gave importance to the consideration that, even though the applicant had confessed to bringing narcotics from the Netherlands to Finland, there was still a risk of collusion. The applicant and the co-accused had not yet been questioned by the first-instance court at its hearing, and evidence given in court at the hearing played a different role in the overall context of the evidence from that of statements given during questioning by the police. The Court of Appeal thus emphasised the relevance of the fact that, under domestic law, the case was to be decided on the basis of the findings made during the hearing.
9. The Court further notes that the domestic courts specifically pointed out that, were he not kept in continued detention on remand, the applicant could, inter alia, influence the statements of the other accused in respect of the amount of the criminal proceeds, which the prosecutor had demanded be repaid. The amount of proceeds of crime demanded by the prosecutor was 2,920,000 euros (EUR) at the time, whereas the applicant had admitted to proceeds of only EUR 150,000. The Court observes that the applicant had submitted that the co-accused could comment on the amount of the proceeds of crime and that therefore there was no risk of collusion in that respect either. However, it does not find any grounds for disregarding the Court of Appeal’s consideration to the effect that it was not possible to verify that submission in the context of the applicant’s request to be released from detention.
10. The Court of Appeal also took into account the seriousness of the specific offence at issue, which in its assessment had a considerable impact on the risk of interference with the administration of justice. In that connection the Court additionally notes that from the material submitted to it, it appears that the investigation – which had required international legal assistance – and proceedings were of considerable complexity and involved many suspects, and that the applicant did not make any complaints about the length of his detention having exceeded what was reasonable in the light of the general progress of the case from the pre-trial investigation to the main hearing.
11. The Court finds no indications, in the light of the above, that the assessment made by the domestic courts was stereotyped, general or abstract in any manner (contrast, for example, Buzadji, cited above, § 122). Both the District Court and the Court of Appeal referred to the specific circumstances of the applicant’s case and explicitly addressed his arguments (contrast, for example, Maassen v. Netherlands, no. 10982/15, § 64, 9 February 2021). The argument that there was a risk that the applicant might influence others, at least until he had testified in court, was substantiated by factual elements (contrast, for example, Ugulava, cited above, § 110). Against this background the Court considers that the domestic authorities gave relevant and sufficient reasons justifying the applicant’s continued detention as required by Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.
12. Having regard to the above, the Court considers that the applicant’s complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court, unanimously,
Declares the application inadmissible.
Done in English and notified in writing on 12 October 2023.