The applicant, Mr. S.N., was accused with the crime of sexual acts with a child. The victim, a 10 years old boy, was interviewed by a police officer. The defence council of the applicant was not present at the initial interview, but he was given the possibility to ask for an additional interview, follow it from an adjacent room and to discuss in advance with the police which aspects he wanted to be discussed in more detail during that interview.
The applicant complained that he had not had a fair trial, as he had not been given the opportunity to question the child.
The Court noted that although generally all evidence should be examined in the court hearing with a view to adversarial hearing, Article 6 did not grant the accused an unlimited right to secure the appearance of witnesses in court. It was normally for the national courts to decide whether it is necessary or advisable to hear a witness. As to the notion of “witness”, the Court noted that although the child. did not testify at a court hearing, he should, for the purposes of Article 6 § 3 (d), be regarded as a witness, because his statements, as recorded by the police, were used in evidence by the domestic courts.
The Court noted that the conviction of the applicant was based solely on the statements of the child. However it also emphasized that in criminal proceedings concerning sexual abuse certain measures may be taken for the purpose of protecting the private life of the victim, especially if the victim is a minor. As the legal counsel of the applicant was able to submit questions to the child. through police officer as well as he heard the recording of the interview itself, the Court ruled that the rights of defence and the rights of the victim had been balanced properly. Accordingly no violation of the right to fair trial of the applicant was found.