The applicant, Mr. Golder, while he was serving a prison sentence was accused of participating in a disturbance during which he allegedly assaulted a prison officer. Those charges were later dropped. Mr. Golder wanted to consult a lawyer with a view to bringing a civil action for libel against the prison officer who accused him. However, the Home Secretary refused permission to consult a lawyer.
Mr. Golder alleged that the refusal of the Home Secretary to permit him to consult a lawyer violated his right to fair trial.
The Court ruled that although not expressly referred to in Article 6(1) access to the court was included among the guarantees of the right to a fair trial. The Court emphasized that although there was no formal denial of access to court for Mr. Golder, consultation with a lawyer was an essential step in realization of his intent to file a lawsuit, especially because the applicant was in prison at that time. Therefore the Home Secretary did in fact prevent him from commencing a civil action. Therefore there was an interference with the applicant’s right to access to court.
The Court noted that right to access a court is not absolute and can be limited therefore the Court had to determine if such interference was justified. The Court concluded that Home Secretary was not in a position to decide whether Mr. Golder’s claim will be successful and therefore the denial of access to a solicitor violated Mr. Golder’s right to go before a court as guaranteed by Article 6.