Mr Girdauskas complained under Article 6 § 1 (right to a trial within a reasonable time) of the length of the criminal proceedings.
Mr Girdauskas was suspected of committing various financial irregularities. Criminal proceedings were initiated in light of these suspected irregularities on 15 May 1995. On 7 February 1997 the Kaunas City District Court adjourned the examination of the case in order to conduct an audit of an enterprise owned by the applicant. On the same date the applicant was released on bail. During the period from 7 February 1997 until 13 December 2001 the investigative authorities conducted an audit of the applicant’s company. On 21 February 2001 the trial recommenced.
On 2 April 2002 the Kaunas City District Court convicted Mr Girdauskas on two counts, obtaining property of another and improper operations with currency. The court sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment. Civil damages in the amount of 811,560 Lithuanian litai (LTL) were also ordered against him. Mr Girdauskas appealed that decision. On 25 February 2003 the Supreme Court quashed the appeal judgment, returning the case for a fresh examination at appellate instance.
On 17 April 2003 the Kaunas Regional Court, acting as a court of appeal, pronounced a new judgment, acquitting the applicant on one of the charges against him (obtaining property of another). However, his conviction for improper currency operations was upheld. However, the sentence was reduced to imprisonment of one year.
Issue: Mr Girdauskas complained concerning the excessive length of the civil proceeding. He invoked Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
Decision of the Court on the alleged violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
Holdings: Yes, there was a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
The Court considered that the applicant’s complaint about the length of proceedings was not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further noted that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
The Court noted that the proceedings were pending for more than 8 years and 5 months and considered that it is up to the Government to justify such a long lapse of time since the start of the proceedings. However, the Government failed to show why such a long time was required for the authorities to deal with the case. The Court noted in particular that during more than four years from 1997 to 2001 the proceedings were adjourned for an audit of the applicant’s company to be carried out. This situation was unacceptable from the point of view of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
Costs and expenses: The Court held that Lithuania was to pay Mr Girdauskas 4,000 Euros in respect of non-pecuniary damages and 4,000 Euros in respect of costs and expenses.