While serving their prison sentence, the applicants, Mr. Ezeh and Mr. Connors, were charged with threatening to kill a probation officer and assaulting a prison officer respectively. They both requested legal representation in their respective disciplinary hearings before the governor. This request was refused. They were both later found guilty and were awarded forty and seven additional days in custody respectively.
The applicants claimed a violation of their right to be represented though a lawyer and the right to free legal aid under Article 6(3) of the Convention.
The Court stated that to determine whether a particular offence should be classified as disciplinary offence or criminal offence (as right to fair trial is applicable only to criminal offences), the Court has to assess three alternative criteria (established in case Engel v. the United Kingdom):
- the domestic classification of the offences
- the nature of the charge and
- the nature and severity of the penalty
The Court noted that the offences in question were classified as disciplinary in domestic law, however, the Court concluded that the penalty – additional days of imprisonment constituted a fresh deprivation of liberty which were not connected with the original judgment and sentence. Furthermore, the penalty for these offences was up to 42 days of imprisonment. Taking into consideration also the severity of punishment the Court found that the offences, of which the applicants were convicted, were criminal and thus the guarantees of the right to a fair trial in criminal proceedings under Article 6(3) were applicable. Consequently, the Court agreed with the Chamber judgment that the refusal to allow the applicants to be legally represented constituted a violation of Article 6(3)(c) of the Convention.