ECHR ruling dated April 05, 2018 in the case of Boyan Gospodinov v. Bulgaria (application No. 28417/07).
In 2007, the complainant was assisted in preparing an application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Bulgaria.
The case was successfully considered a complaint about the refusal to change the place of consideration of the criminal case, despite the simultaneous consideration of a civil suit filed by the defendant in which the actions of the court were appealed. The case has violated the requirements of paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicant, who, after filing a complaint about the sentence of the court of first instance, was sentenced to a term of more than he had already served while in custody as part of the chosen preventive measure during the trial, filed a lawsuit against the state in another court for damages. The relevant civil proceedings were suspended until the resolution of the second criminal case against the applicant was resolved on the grounds that the outcome of his consideration could have influenced the conclusion on the merits of the sentence. The applicant unsuccessfully petitioned to change the place of consideration of the second criminal case on the grounds that the interrelation of criminal and civil cases involved the issue of bias of the court. As a result, the applicant was sentenced to another term of deprivation of liberty, which, together with the term imposed on the first sentence, exceeded the length of the applicant's detention under the chosen preventive measure, which led to the rejection of the applicant's civil suit.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Regarding compliance with paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Convention. Even though the four judges who were part of the court that considered the second criminal case against the applicant did not take part in the first case against the applicant, the fact that they were professionally associated with one of the defendants in a parallel civil process, also that the civil proceedings were suspended until the completion of the consideration of the second criminal case against the applicant, gave the applicant sufficient grounds to legitimately doubt the objective impartiality of the judges.
In addition, in accordance with the relevant provisions on the disposal of budget funds, if the applicant’s civil lawsuit was successful, the amount of compensation awarded to him could have been paid from the budget of the criminal court in question.
Even taking into account that it was not established that this circumstance would in any way affect the individual situations of the judges in a criminal case, it could legitimately increase the applicant's doubts.
Moreover, according to Bulgarian legislation, which required the judges to refuse to participate in the criminal case, if there were any doubts about their impartiality, even in cases other than explicitly expressed, if all the judges refused to participate in the case, the case was transferred another court.
The applicant’s request was rejected solely on formal grounds without any detailed consideration of it. The applicant also unsuccessfully raised this issue in the proceedings in two higher courts: the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Cassation, which were themselves defendants in the applicant’s claim for compensation for damage. Without responding to the applicant's arguments, these courts also failed to remove reasonable doubt about the bias of the court of first instance.
As a result, the court of first instance, which considered the second criminal case against the applicant, did not meet the requirements of objective impartiality, and the higher courts did not remedy this situation.
The case of violation of the requirements of paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant EUR 3,600 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.