Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
17.12.1996

Facts

The applicant, Mr. Saunders, was questioned several times and compelled to testify against himself as the refusal to do so could result in the contempt of the court and imposition of fine or imprisonment for up to two years. During the trial the prosecutor referred to the statements made by the applicant in the course of these interviews to the State inspectors and presented them to the jury. The applicant was later convicted of twelve counts of conspiracy, false accounting and theft and received an overall prison sentence of five years.

Complaint

The applicant contended that he was denied a fair trial in breach of Article 6 (1) of the Convention. The government argued that the statements were not directly incriminating and could be interpreted as helpful to the applicant’s case. 

Court's ruling

The Court recalled that right to fair trial includes also the right to silence and the right not to incriminate oneself. The court stated that the right not to incriminate oneself also covered statements of admission of wrongdoing or to remarks, which are not directly incriminating. Testimony obtained under compulsion which appears on its face to be of a non-incriminating nature - such as exculpatory remarks or mere information on questions of fact - may later be deployed in criminal proceedings in support of the prosecution case, for example to contradict or cast doubt upon other statements of the accused or evidence given by him during the trial or to otherwise undermine his credibility. Where the credibility of an accused must be assessed by a jury the use of such testimony may be especially harmful. The use to which evidence obtained under compulsion is put in the course of the criminal trial was essential in this context. The Court found that the evidence was used in court in a manner which sought to incriminate the applicant. 

Since the statements were obtained compulsory from, Court found that there has been a violation of the right not to incriminate oneself.