Tomasi v France (Series A, No 241-A, Application No 12850/87) EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (1993) 15 EHRR 1, 27 AUGUST 1992

Pre-trial detention

The applicant, a French resident and national, was arrested and charged with several criminal offences including murder. The proceedings beginning at the date of the arrest lasted for over five years. Throughout the period the applicant remained in custody despite his numerous appeals. Both the judicial authorities and the public prosecutor delayed the investigations. The applicant also alleges that he was beaten in jail and physically abused. Four different physicians examined him in days immediately subsequent to the period he spent in police custody, and found evidence of slight physical injuries. The applicant files this suit alleging that violations under Articles: 3, 5(3), and 6(1) of the convention. The Court found for the applicant.

1. Criminal proceedings: detention; reasonable time. (Art 5(3)).

Article 5(3) of the Convention mandates that national judiciaries must ensure that the pre-trial detention of a defendant should not exceed a reasonable time. Continued detention must be measured against the requisite presumption of innocence and the respect for individual liberty.

A persisting and reasonable suspicion that the person had committed the offence in question represents a condition sine qua non for continued detention - after a certain period time such a suspicion is no longer sufficient. The national judiciary must examine the continued detention with due diligence and examine whether sufficient and relevant reasons exist. The passage of time may render some reasons irrelevant. These include the reasons relied on by the court. For example, the gravity of the offence in question, a serious indications of the defendant's guilt, and the fear that the defendant may pressure some witnesses if he is released.

A defendant's right to a speedy proceeding, does not entail that a court cannot detain a defendant in order to pursue the case with due diligence. In this case, however, the applicant encountered two periods of delay that were not necessary for further investigation.

2. Inhuman and degrading treatment of a detainee. (Art 3).

The medical examinations of the applicant during his custody are sufficient to establish a causal relation between the injuries and the police custody. When the medical evidence indicates a large number of serious blows, as in this case, such a treatment may be categorized an inhuman and degrading. The difficulties in combating crime cannot curtail the Convention's requirement that the physical integrity of all individuals be protected.

3. Civil proceedings: reasonable time. (Art 6(1)).

'Reasonable Length' should be determined by comparing the case to other similar cases and the complexity of the case it self. The proceedings start from the time a defendant is arrested until he is either acquitted of sentenced.

The following cases were referred to in the judgment:

2. CLOOTH v BELGIUM (A/225): (1992) 14 EHRR 717.
3. KEMMACHE v FRANCE (A/218): (1992) 14 EHRR 520.
4. LETELLIER v FRANCE (A/207): (1992) 14 EHRR 83.
5. TOTH v AUSTRIA (A/224): (1992) 14 EHRR 551.
6. IRELAND v UNITED KINGDOM (A/25): (1979-80) 2 EHRR 25.
7. TYRER v UNITED KINGDOM (A/26): (1979-80) 2 EHRR 1.
8. MOREIRA DE AZEVEDO v PORTUGAL (A/208-C) (1992) 14 EHRR 113.
9. Cassation, Criminelle, 9 February 1961 [1961] Dalloz Jur 306.

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