European Court of Human Rights
29 April 1999

Facts

The applicant, Mr Aquilina, was arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence involving sexual acts. Although he was brought before a magistrate within first 48 hours, the magistrate did not have powers to order his release. His release was considered at his bail hearing.

Complaint

The applicant alleged a breach of Article 5 § 3 as the powers of the magistrate before whom he had first appeared were limited and he could not order his release. The magistrate could only order his release following a bail application. Moreover, he was not heard in person.

Court’s ruling

The Court found that according to Article 5(3) of the Convention, there must be a prompt and automatic judicial control of police detention ordered. Such control could not be made to depend on a previous application by the detained person, as it was the case with the Maltese law. The judge had no power to order the applicants release of his or her own motion. Additionally, the judge who exercised this control needed to hear the detained person and take the appropriate decision. It was not done so in the case of Mr Aquilina. Thus, the Court ruled that there has been a breach of right to be brought promptly before a judge guaranteed in Article 5(3) of the Convention.

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