Informatsioon süüdistuse kohta
Pélissier ja Sassi vs. Prantsusmaa
Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
After a criminal investigation the applicants, Mr. Pélissier and Mr. Sassi, were indicted and stood trial on charges of criminal bankruptcy. The court of first instance acquitted them. The court of appeals upheld the acquittal for criminal bankruptcy, but decided to convict them of aiding and abetting a criminal bankruptcy instead.
The applicants complained that the court of appeal convicted them for a different offence than that which they were charged with without hearing the parties on those charges.
Paragraph 3 (a) of Article 6 pointed to the need for special attention to be paid to the notification of the “accusation” to the defendant. Particulars of the offence played a crucial role in the criminal process, in that it is from the moment of their service that the suspect is formally put on notice of the factual and legal basis of the charges against him. In criminal matters the provision of full, detailed information concerning the charges against a defendant, and consequently the legal characterisation that the court might adopt in the matter, was an essential prerequisite for ensuring that the proceedings are fair. In the particular case the only charge set out in the order committing the applicants for trial was criminal bankruptcy. At no stage during the proceeding the possibility of charging the applicant with aiding and abetting was discussed. Therefore the Court concluded that it had not been established that the applicants were aware that the court of appeal might charge them with aiding and abetting criminal bankruptcy. The Court further found that aiding and abetting criminal bankruptcy differed from the criminal bankruptcy charges and that the applicants were given no opportunity to prepare their defence for the new charge, as it was only through the court of appeal’s judgment that they learned of the alternative characterisation of their acts. Therefore there was a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial.