Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of European Court of Human Rights, December 19, 1990 (case CASE OF DELTA v. FRANCE)

Resolution DateDecember 19, 1990



(Application no. 11444/85)



19 December 1990

In the Delta case[],

The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention")[] and the relevant provisions of the Rules of Court[], as a Chamber composed of the following judges:

             Mr               R. Ryssdal, President,

             Mr               J. Cremona,

             Mr               Thór Vilhjálmsson,

             Mr               F. Gölcüklü,

             Mr               L.-E. Pettiti,

             Mr               R. Macdonald,

             Mr               C. Russo,

             Mr               J. De Meyer,

and also of Mr M.-A. Eissen, Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 29 August and 20 November 1990,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:


  1.    The case was referred to the Court by the European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission") on 14 December 1989, within the three-month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47 (art. 32-1, art. 47) of the Convention. It originated in an application (no. 11444/85) against the French Republic lodged with the Commission under Article 25 (art. 25) by a national of that State, Mr Michel Sophie Delta, on 4 August 1984.

    The Commission’s request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44, art. 48) of the Convention and to the declaration whereby France recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46). The object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the facts of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its obligations under Article 6 paras. 1 and 3 (d) (art. 6-1, art. 6-3-d).

  2.    In response to the enquiry made in accordance with Rule 33 para. 3 (d) of the Rules of Court, the applicant stated that he wished to take part in the proceedings and designated the lawyer who would represent him (Rule 30).

  3.    The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio Mr L.-E. Pettiti, the elected judge of French nationality (Article 43 of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the President of the Court (Rule 21 para. 3 (b)). On 27 January 1990, in the presence of the Registrar, the President drew by lot the names of the other seven members, namely Mr J. Cremona, Mrs D. Bindschedler-Robert, Mr F. Gölcüklü, Sir Vincent Evans, Mr R. Macdonald, Mr C. Russo and Mr J. De Meyer (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 4) (art. 43). Subsequently Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson, substitute judge, replaced Mrs Bindschedler-Robert, who was unable to take further part in the consideration of the case (Rules 22 para. 1 and 24 para. 1).

  4.    Mr Ryssdal assumed the office of President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 5) and, through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the French Government ("the Government"), the Delegate of the Commission and the lawyer for the applicant on the need for a written procedure (Rule 37 para. 1). In accordance with the order made in consequence on 2 March 1990, the Registrar received the applicant’s memorial on 3 May. On 23 May and 8 June the Agent of the Government and the Delegate of the Commission informed the Registrar that they would submit their observations at the hearing.

  5.    On 8 June the Secretary to the Commission produced the file on the proceedings before the Commission which the Registrar had sought from him on the President’s instructions.

  6.    Having consulted, through the Registrar, those who would be appearing before the Court, the President directed on 29 June that the oral proceedings should open on 27 August 1990 (Rule 38).

  7.    The hearing took place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on the appointed day. The Court had held a preparatory meeting beforehand.

    There appeared before the Court:

    - for the Government

                 Mr P. Baudillon, Assistant Director,

                                             Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,              

                                                           Delegate of the Agent,

                 Mr M. Simamonti, magistrat,

                                             Department of Criminal Affairs and Pardons, Ministry of              


                 Mrs I. Chaussade, magistrat, Department of Legal Affairs,

                                             Ministry of Foreign Affairs,               Counsel;

    - for the Commission

                 Mr J.-C. Soyer,               Delegate;

    - for the applicant

                 Mr P.-F. Divier, avocat,               Counsel.

    The Court heard addresses by Mr Baudillon for the Government, Mr Soyer for the Commission and Mr Divier for the applicant, as well as their replies to its questions.

  8.    On 31 August the Registrar received from the applicant’s lawyer the documents which the applicant had indicated in his memorial would be filed.



  9.    Mr Michel Sophie Delta is a French citizen who was born in Guadeloupe and lives there today after having spent some time in metropolitan France.

    1. The police investigation

  10.    At 6.40 p.m. on 29 March 1983 a girl of 16, Miss Poggi, and a friend of the same age, Miss Blin, were in a Paris underground station when two coloured men accosted them. One of the men snatched a gold chain and crucifix which Miss Poggi was wearing round her neck and ran towards the exit.

  11.    The two girls immediately went to the central police station of the 12th District, and at 7 p.m., as a result, Mr Delta was arrested by Police Constable Bonci, accompanied by the two girls, in a building by the exit from the underground. The victim and her friend immediately said they recognised him. A search of the applicant and subsequently of the premises yielded nothing, however.

  12.    The applicant was taken to the central police station of the 12th District and questioned at 8.40 p.m. by Chief Inspector Mercier, an officier de police judiciaire, about his identity and means of subsistence and was then taken into police custody.

  13.    From 10 a.m. to 10.20 a.m. the following day, Inspector Duban, who was likewise an officier de police judiciaire, took a statement from him about the facts of the case. Mr Delta said that at about 6.30 p.m. he had been set upon by four people who had chased him into the underground and stolen a cigarette lighter and 100 francs from him. He surmised that one of them could have committed the robbery as the two girls went by. He said that he had run away because he had been put in fear by his four attackers.

    Subsequently (the exact time is not given in the police report), Inspector Duban interviewed both girls separately, each in the presence of her mother. They confirmed that the person who had been arrested was indeed the person who had committed the offence. The victim lodged a complaint alleging robbery.

    Mr Delta was never formally confronted with Miss Poggi and Miss Blin.

  14.    The Chief Superintendent in charge of the Fourth Area police force forwarded the file to the public prosecutor’s office.

    1. The judicial proceedings

  15.    Paris Criminal Court

  16.    The Paris public prosecutor considered that a judicial investigation was unnecessary and accordingly used the direct committal procedure (Articles 393 to 397-7 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as amended by the "Security and Freedom" Act of 2 February 1987).

  17.    On 31 March 1983 Mr Delta appeared before the 23rd Division of the Paris Criminal Court, which made an interlocutory order for a psychiatric report and a social inquiry report and remanded him in custody.

  18.    On 5 May the court passed a sentence of three years’ imprisonment on him. The judgment contained the following reasons:

    The facts (robbery by snatching a neckchain and crucifix from the victim) [are established], notwithstanding the defendant’s denials, by the evidence obtained, in particular by means of the statements of Police Constable Bonci, who gave evidence on oath. The defendant must be convicted and punished very severely, having regard to the...

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