CASE OF VAKHROMEYEV AND PETROV v. RUSSIA
(Applications nos. 19813/16 and 50781/16)
17 December 2019
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Vakhromeyev and Petrov v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Alena Poláčková, President,
Gilberto Felici, judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 26 November 2019,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in two applications (nos. 19813/16 and 50781/16) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by two Russian nationals, Mr Ilya ViktorovichVakhromeyev and Mr Aleksey AleksandrovichPetrov (“the applicants”), on 29 March and 16 August 2016 respectively.
2. The first applicant was represented by Mr A. Romanov, a lawyer practising in Domodedovo, Moscow Region. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by, Mr M. Galperin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
3. On 9 February 2018 the Government were given notice of the complaints under Articles 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) of the Convention and the remainder of the applications was declared inadmissible pursuant to Rule 54 § 3 of the Rules of Court.
4. The Government objected to the examination of the applications by a Committee. Having considered the Government’s objection, the Court rejects it.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. Application no. 19813/16, Vakhromeyev v. Russia
5. The applicant was born in 1969 and lives in Kovrov, Vladimir Region.
6. On 8 December 2014 the applicant was involved in a road traffic accident. According to the ensuing investigation, the applicant’s negligent driving caused a collision between two other vehicles. As a result, one of the drivers was injured.
7. On an unspecified date the Kameshkovo District Court of Vladimir Region started the examination of the applicant’s case.
8. On 23 July 2015 the District Court allowed an application by the applicant to have B. summoned to testify on his behalf but refused to summon V., M. and P. B. was a paramedic who had arrived at the scene of the accident to provide medical assistance to an injured person. M. and P. were attesting witnesses who had been present when the police officers had inspected the scene of the accident and prepared an administrative-offence report. V. was the applicant’s ten-year old son, who had been in the applicant’s car when the accident had taken place. The court fixed the hearing of the case for 14 August 2015.
9. On 13 August 2015 B. informed the District Court by telephone that he was on sick leave and was unable to appear on 14 August 2015.
10. On 14 September 2015 the Court adjourned the hearing and fixed a new one for 8 September 2015 in order to obtain the attendance of a number of witnesses, including B.
11. On 8 September 2015 the Kameshkovo District Court of Vladimir Region found the applicant guilty of a violation of the rules of the road resulting in serious injuries and ordered him to pay a fine in the amount of 10,000 Russian roubles (RUB). The court heard evidence from the applicant, two other drivers involved in the road traffic accident, two police officers who had inspected the scene of the accident and had conducted an investigation; an eyewitness, L.B., failed to appear in court. According to the transcript of the hearing, the District Court did not discuss the reasons for B.’s absence. The applicant appealed.
12. On 11 November 2015 the Vladimir Regional Court upheld the judgment of 11 September 2015 on appeal.
B. Application no. 50781/16, Petrov v. Russia
13. On 18 December 2015 traffic police officers stopped the applicant’s car. The applicant refused to take a breathalyser test. Police Officer A.B. prepared an administrative-offence report. L. and R. signed it as attesting witnesses.
14. On 29 February 2016 the justice of the peace of judicial circuit no. 2 of the Volsk district of Saratov Region found the applicant guilty as charged and ordered him to pay a fine in the amount of RUB 30,000 and suspended his driving licence for a year and 10 months. The justice of the peace heard submissions from the applicant, his counsel and A.B. and examined the administrative-offence report. L. and R., who were attesting witnesses, failed to appear and the justice of the peace relied on their written statements. The applicant appealed.
15. On 23 May 2016 the Volsk District Court of Saratov Region upheld the judgment of 29 February 2016 on appeal. The court heard evidence from L., who confirmed that he had signed the administrative report stating that the applicant had refused to take a breathalyser test. He further submitted that R. had not been present at the time the administrative-offence report had been prepared. The applicant and his counsel were present. They made submissions to the court and put questions to the witness.
I. JOINDER OF THE APPLICATIONS
16. Having regard to the similar subject matter of the applications, the Court finds it appropriate to examine them jointly in a single judgment.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 OF THE CONVENTION
17. The applicants complained that they had been unable to confront witnesses or obtain the attendance of witnesses on their behalf. In particular, Mr Vakhromeyev had been unable to obtain the attendance of P. and M., the paramedic B. and his son V. Mr Petrov alleged that the justice of the peace relied on the written statements made by L. and R. instead of questioning them in person. The applicants referred to Article 6 of the Convention, which, in so far as relevant, reads as follows:
“1. In the determination of … any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair … hearing … by [a] … tribunal …
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him …”
18. The Government contested that argument. They discerned no violation in the applicants’ allegations. As regards Mr Vakhromeyev’s complaint concerning the courts’ failure to obtain the attendance of B., the Government submitted that B. had not witnessed the road traffic accident with his own eyes and the court’s failure to question him had had no impact on the fairness of the administrative proceedings. Nor had the attesting witnesses M. and P. been able to see the road traffic accident. They had been invited by the police to witness the inspection of the scene of the accident and had confirmed that the information contained in the relevant administrative-offence report had been correct. The District Court’s refusal to question those witnesses had had no bearing on the consideration of the case. While it had been open to the applicant and his lawyer to ask the appellate court to summon those witnesses, neither the applicant nor his lawyer had resorted to such measure. As to Mr Petrov’s complaint, the Government submitted that the courts at two levels of jurisdiction had duly examined the applicant’s case and complied with the requirements set out in Article 6 of the Convention.
19. Mr Vakhromeyev submitted that his son’s testimony had been important. He further claimed that B.’s testimony had been necessary to show collusion between the police and the witness L., which he had allegedly witnessed. The testimony of the attesting witnesses M. and P. would have shown that the material in the administrative case-file had been forged.
20. Mr Petrov maintained his complaint.
21. The Court notes that the applications are not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
1. General principles
22. The general principles concerning the right of an accused to examine witnesses against him and obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf are well established in the Court’s case law (see Schatschaschwili v. Germany [GC], no. 9154/10, §§ 100-31, ECHR 2015, andMurtazaliyeva v. Russia [GC], no. 36658/05, §§ 150-68).
2. Application of the principles in the present case
(a) Application no. 19813/16
23. Turning to the circumstances of the present case, the Court observes that, by granting the applicant’s application to summon B. for questioning as a witness, the domestic judicial authorities accepted that B.’s testimony, as claimed by the applicant, was relevant and necessary for the proper examination of the matter. It accepts that the applicant’s application to have that witness examined was sufficiently reasoned and relevant to the subject matter of the charges against him.
24. It further notes that, while summoning B. to testify, the domestic judicial authorities failed to make every reasonable effort to obtain his attendance. There is nothing in the material submitted regarding what measures the domestic judicial authorities employed to ensure the witness’s presence. When the witness failed to appear for the second time, the District Court decided to proceed with hearing the case without establishing the reasons for the witness’s non-attendance or providing any reason for its decision to dispense with questioning the witness.
25. As for V., M. and P., the Court observes that the domestic courts provided no reasons for rejecting the applicant’s application to have them called as witnesses.
26. Lastly, the Court takes into account that in the case under consideration, the applicant’s conviction was based solely on the evidence collected by the police. In such circumstances, it considers that the failure on the part of the national judicial authorities to provide the applicant with an opportunity to put forward evidence he considered relevant for the examination of his case undermined the overall fairness of the proceedings. There has been therefore a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d).
(b) Application no. 50781/16
27. The Court notes at the outset that, as regards L., the appellate court provided the applicant with an opportunity to examine him. Accordingly, it considers that the relevant omission on the part of the justice of the peace was remedied. It remains to be ascertained whether the domestic court’s failure to dispense with questioning R. as a witness amounted to a violation of Article 6 of the Convention.
28. The Court accepts, and the Government do not argue otherwise, that R.’s absence from the trial was not justified. It is apparent from the material submitted that the witness merely ignored the court’s summonses and the latter did not do anything to ensure his presence in court.
29. The Court also accepts that R.’s statement, having been admitted by the justice of the peace, carried a certain weight in respect of the applicant’s conviction.
30. Nevertheless, having examined the overall fairness of the trial, the Court considers that, notwithstanding the difficulties caused to the defence by admitting R.’s statement, there were sufficient counterbalancing factors to conclude that such admission did not result in a breach of Article 6 of the Convention. The applicant, assisted by counsel of his own choosing, was able to present his account of the events, to confront the witnesses testifying against him, obtain the attendance of the witness of his behalf and challenge the administrative-offence report prepared by the police. There has been no violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) of the Convention.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
31. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
32. Mr Vakhromeyev claimed 35,027 Russian roubles (RUB) in respect of pecuniary damage (the amount of the administrative fine paid by him and the damages he had to pay to the victim of the traffic accident awarded by the domestic courts in separate proceedings). He further claimed 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
33. The Government submitted that the applicant had had to pay the fine lawfully imposed on him for the violation of the rules of the road and that his claim in that connection should be rejected. They further noted that the damages he had had to pay to the injured party had been irrelevant to the present case. Lastly, they considered that the applicant’s claims for compensation of non-pecuniary damage were excessive and unreasonable.
34. The Court notes that in the present case an award of just satisfaction can only be based on the fact that the applicants did not have the benefit of the guarantees of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. It cannot speculate as to what the outcome of the proceedings compatible with Article 6 § 1 might have been, had the requirements of this provision not been violated (compare Menchinskaya v. Russia, no. 42454/02, § 46, 15 January 2009, and Popov v. Russia, no. 26853/04, § 260, 13 July 2006). Nor can it discern a causal link between the damages awarded by domestic courts in the proceedings outside the scope of the present application and the violation found. It therefore rejects Mr Vakhromeyev’s claim in respect of pecuniary damage. As to the applicant’s claims in respect of non-pecuniary damage, the Court awards him EUR 1,000.
B. Costs and expenses
35. Mr Vakhromeyev also claimed the following compensation for the costs and expenses incurred before the domestic courts: RUB 32,256 (court fee, notary’s and experts’ fees); RUB 65,000 (lawyer’s fee) and RUB 579.74 (postal expenses). He further claimed RUB 20,000 (lawyer’s fees) and RUB 2,447 (postal expenses) for those incurred before the Court.
36. As regards the costs and expenses claimed by the applicant in respect of the domestic proceedings, the Government submitted that they were either not necessary or irrelevant to the consideration of the applicant’s case before the Court. They considered that the applicant had duly substantiated his claims in respect of the proceedings before the Court.
37. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case‑law, the Court considers it reasonable to award the sum of EUR 1,270 covering costs under all heads.
C. Default interest
38. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Decides to join the applications;
2. Declaresthe applications admissible;
3. Holdsthat there has been a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) of the Convention in respect of Mr Vakhromeyev (application no. 19813/16);
4. Holdsthat there has been no violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) of the Convention in respect of Mr Petrov (application no. 50781/16);
(a) that the respondent State is to pay Mr Vakhromeyev (application no. 19813/16), within three months the following amounts,to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 1,270 (one thousand two hundred and seventy euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
6. Dismissesthe remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 December 2019, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Stephen Phillips Alena Poláčková