Европейский суд по правам человека
25 июля 2000 года

Facts

The applicant, Mr. Mattoccia, was accused of raping a mentally disabled girl who studied in the school in which he worked as bus driver. In the judicial notification he was informed that he had allegedly committed an offence under Article 519 of the Criminal Code in that he forced a mentally disabled girl R. to have sexual intercourse with him in November 1985. Due to lack of evidence, the court could not determine the exact time and place of the offence. The applicant was later found guilty. 

Complaint

Mr. Mattoccia alleged that the particulars of the offence charged had been too vague to allow him to defend himself in violation of his right to fair trial. 

Court's ruling

The Court noted that particulars of the offence play 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. The accused must be made aware “promptly” and “in detail” of the material facts alleged against him and which are at the basis of the accusation, and of the legal qualification of these material facts. The accused must be provided with sufficient information as is necessary to understand fully the extent of the charges against him with a view to preparing an adequate defence. In the particular case the Court found that Mr. Mattoccia was initially informed that he was accused of raping a particular girl in “Rome in November 1985”. At that time the authorities had information about the approximate time and exact place of the offence which was not conveyed to the accused. The case file was also not available to the accused at that stage of the proceedings. 

The Court also took into account that witnesses changed their testimony about the location of the offence several times during the trial thus changing the “cause” of the accusations. No adjustments were made to the trial schedule to allow the defence to prepare adequately for each time the version of events was changed.  Therefore the Court concluded that Mr. Mattocia's right to be informed in detail of the nature and cause of the accusation against him and his right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence were breached in violation of his right to a fair trial.