Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
15.09.2009

Facts

The applicant, Mr. Pacula, was accused of robbing a retired lady B. in her house and of steeling goods in four local shops. Neither the old lady, because of health, nor three of the salespersons at the shops attended Mr. Pacula’s court hearing, despite the applicant’s request to cross-examine them. Only one salesperson appeared and was questioned in the subsequent proceedings in the appeals stage. Mr. Pacula was eventually convicted to a prison sentence.

Complaint

The applicant complained that his right to a fair trial had been violated as his conviction was based on the statements of witnesses whom he did not have the chance to question.

Court's ruling

The Court found that in the particular case Mr. Pacula conviction was based solely on the statements of witness B. Although Mr. Pacula was confronted with B. at the beginning of the investigation, in the Court’s view it could not be considered a proper cross-examination of the witnesses, as this confrontation took place when the applicant was not yet officially indicted and in front of the police instead of an independent judge. 

The national courts also had not considered other means available under Latvian law to ensure the possibility for Mr. Pacula to cross examine witness B. despite her health issues. Thus the Court concluded that the national courts did not show the necessary diligence towards the protection of the rights of defence and therefore there was a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial in this respect. 

With regard to the cross-examination of the salespersons the Court pointed out that it would have desirable to question all of them. However, as the robberies in the shops were made under identical circumstances and the applicant didn’t point out any inconsistencies in their testimonies, it was sufficient that only one of the salespersons was cross-examined before the national courts. In this regard the Court found no violation of Mr. Pacula’s right to a fair trial.