Case of European Court of Human Rights, February 16, 2000 (case Rowe and Davis v. the United Kingdom [GC])

Resolution Date:February 16, 2000

Violation of Art. 6-1 Non-pecuniary damage - finding of violation sufficient Costs and expenses partial award - Convention proceedings


Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 15

February 2000

Rowe and Davis v. the United Kingdom [GC] - 28901/95

Judgment 16.2.2000 [GC]

Article 6

Criminal proceedings

Article 6-1

Fair hearing

Non-disclosure by prosecution on grounds of public interest immunity: violation; no violation

[This summary also covers the following judgments of 16 February 2000: Fitt v. the United Kingdom [GC] (29777/96) and Jasper v. the United Kingdom [GC], (27052/95).]

Facts: The cases concern three applications brought by four British nationals. Eric Jasper, who was born in 1933, Raphael Rowe and Michael Davis, who were born in 1968 and 1966 respectively, and Barry Fitt, who was born in 1933. Mr Rowe and Mr Davis are currently serving sentences for murder and other offences committed in 1988. They were convicted in February 1990 and their appeals were finally determined in 1993. Their case has now been remitted to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Mr Jasper is in Maidstone Prison for fraudulent evasion of the prohibitions on importing cannabis in 1993, and Mr Fitt is in Whitemoor Prison for conspiracy to rob and possession of a firearm and a prohibited weapon in 1993. They were both convicted in 1994. During the criminal proceedings against all four applicants, relevant evidence was withheld from the defence on the ground of public interest immunity.

The applicants complain that the non-disclosure by prosecution of relevant evidence on the ground of public interest immunity meant they were denied a fair trial in breach of Article 6 § 1 and § 3 (b) and (d) of the European Convention on Human Rights.


(a) Case of Rowe and Davis v. the United Kingdom

The Court noted that, in accordance with the law as it stood at the time, it was in this case the prosecution, without the knowledge or approval of the judge, who decided that the evidence in question should not be disclosed.  In the light of the requirements of Article 6 § 1 - that the prosecution should disclose to the defence all material evidence in their possession for or against the defence, and that difficulties caused to the defence must be sufficiently counterbalanced by the procedures followed by the judicial authorities - it found that such a procedure was not compatible with the right to a fair trial. The Court of Appeal, which had itself considered the material on two occasions, was not able to remedy the position as it had not seen the witnesses give their evidence...

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