Case of European Court of Human Rights, October 09, 2003 (case Ezeh and Connors v. the United Kingdom [GC])

Resolution Date:October 09, 2003

Violation of Art. 6-3-c Non-pecuniary damage - finding of violation sufficient Costs and expenses award - Convention proceedings


Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 57

October 2003

Ezeh and Connors v. the United Kingdom [GC] - 39665/98 and 40086/98

Judgment 9.10.2003 [GC]

Article 6

Criminal proceedings

Article 6-1

Criminal charge

Applicability of Article 6 to prison disciplinary proceedings: Article 6 applicable

Facts: While serving lengthy prison sentences, the applicants were charged with offences under the Prison Rules. The first applicant was charged with threatening to kill a probation officer; the second applicant was charged with assaulting a prison officer. The applicants’ requests to be allowed legal representation for their respective adjudication hearings were refused by the Governor. They were both found guilty and were awarded forty additional days’ custody and seven additional days’ custody respectively. They were subsequently refused leave to apply for judicial review.

Law: Article 6 § 3 (c) – (a) applicability of Article 6:  It was appropriate to apply the criteria set out in the Engel judgment, while making due allowance for the prison context. The Government’s argument that removing the power of prison governors to award additional days would undermine prison discipline was not compelling: it had not been explained why the range of other available sanctions – which had since been extended – would not have had a comparable impact in maintaining the efficiency of the prison disciplinary system. It had not been convincingly shown that the disciplinary needs in Scotland, where awards of additional days had been suspended, were significantly different from those in England and Wales, and the practical obstacles (administrative and financial burdens and delays in adjudication) created by the new system introduced as a result of the Chamber’s judgment were not on their own such as to render Article 6 inapplicable.

The offences at issue were classified as disciplinary in domestic law. However, the nature of the offences was of greater importance in determining whether Article 6 was applicable. In that respect, the offences were directed towards a group with a special status – prisoners – and not at all citizens. However, this did not render the nature of the offences prima facie disciplinary; it was only one of the relevant indicators. The disciplinary charges also corresponded to offences under the criminal law and while the charge against the second applicant involved a relatively minor incident which might not have led to prosecution outwith the...

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