Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
19.09.2000

Facts

The applicant, Mr. Gnahore, was involved in a civil dispute regarding his son’s placement in foster home. The applicant appealed various decisions to suspend his right to contact his child and to renew this suspension. After the court of appeal issued a judgment Mr. Gnahore lodged a notice of appeal on points of law and made an application for legal aid. His legal aid application was dismissed on the ground that no arguable ground of appeal on points of law could be made out against the judgment.

Complaint

 Mr. Gnahore complained that the dismissal of his legal aid application resulted in his case being prejudged and infringed his right of access to a court.

Court's ruling

The Court reiterated that if there is an appeal system in the state, the state must ensure that persons within its jurisdiction enjoy before appellate courts the fundamental guarantees of right to fair trial. Whilst Article 6 (1) guarantees to litigants an effective right of access to the courts for the determination of their “civil rights and obligations”, it leaves to the State a free choice of the means to be used towards this end and only compels the State to provide for the assistance of a lawyer when without such assistance an effective access to court would be impossible either because legal representation is rendered compulsory or by reason of the complexity of the procedure or of the case. 

In the present case the Court noted that legal representation was not compulsory under the national law and because of that the procedure was made markedly simpler. The Court also found that the ground of refusal motivated by the legitimate concern that public money should only be used for legal aid purposes for appellants whose appeals have a reasonable prospect of success. Additionally, Mr. Gnahore was able to appeal that decision. Therefore was no violation of the right to a fair trial.