Pélissier and Sassi v. France [GC] (Application no. 25444/94)

A selection of key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.


67. The reasonableness of the length of proceedings is to be assessed in the light of the particular circumstances of the case, regard being had to the criteria laid down in the Court’s case-law, in particular the complexity of the case, the applicant’s conduct and the conduct of the competent authorities (see, among many other authorities, the Kemmache v. France (nos. 1 and 2) judgment of 27 November 1991, Series A no. 218, p. 27, § 60).

73. The Court notes that the investigation lasted five years, nine months and thirteen days in the case of the first applicant, and five years and fifteen days in the case of the second applicant.

In the light of its findings that the case was not complex and that the applicants’ conduct had been reasonable, the Court holds that there was no justification for the investigation’s taking more than five years. Like the Commission, it also notes that there were unjustified delays and periods of inactivity during the investigation, in particular between the ordonnance de soit-communiqué of 10 January 1989 (see paragraph 25 above) and the order of 27 June 1990 committing the applicants for trial before the Criminal Court (see paragraph 26 above), and between the order of 15 June 1987 for an expert’s report (see paragraph 23 above) and the lodging of that report on 30 June 1988 (see paragraph 24 above). Nor does the Court find persuasive the argument that the judges’ work had been made more difficult by the entry into force of the Law of 25 January 1985 (see paragraph 20 above), for, as the Government acknowledged (see paragraph 69 above), that statute had enabled the offence of criminal bankruptcy – the only one the applicants were accused of – to be simplified.

As regards the proceedings before the Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal, the Court further finds that there was an unjustified delay between 22 March 1991, when the public prosecutor and Fernand Cortez lodged their appeals (see paragraph 29 above), and 16 April 1992, when the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal held its first hearing (see paragraph 30 above). It considers in particular that the taking of procedural steps as basic and commonplace as serving summonses to appear, in proceedings in which the number of parties cannot be said to have been unusually high, cannot explain such a lengthy delay.

74. The Court observes in this connection that Article 6 § 1 of the Convention imposes on the Contracting States the duty to organise their legal systems in such a way that their courts can meet each of the requirements of that provision, including the obligation to decide cases within a reasonable time (see, among many other authorities, the Duclos v. France judgment of 17 December 1996, Reports 1996-VI, pp. 2180‑81, § 55 in fine). The evidence adduced in the present case shows that there were excessive delays, which were attributable to the national authorities.


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