• 2010/02/11

CASE OF LALAS v. LITHUANIA – Application no. 13109/04 (2011)

Facts: Mr Lalas is a Lithuanian national. The case concerned his complaint that an undercover police officer had entrapped him into supplying drugs in June 2002 and that subsequently he had been unfairly convicted and sentenced. He further complained about the non-disclosure at his trial of certain evidence relating to the authorisation and use of the Criminal Conduct Simulation Model.

The Applicant was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Mr Lalas appealed to the Kaunas Regional Court. On 10 June 2003 the Kaunas Regional Court upheld the conviction and set the sentence at eight years of imprisonment. The Applicant lodged a cassation appeal. In 2003 the Supreme Court dismissed the Applicant’s cassation appeal. On 3 March 2004, the Applicant’s defence counsel submitted a request to the Supreme Court for reopening the case, claiming that the decisions of the court were based on inappropriate evidence which had been gathered unlawfully. This request was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The Applicant relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

Issue: The case was brought to the Court to decide whether there is violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial within a reasonable time).

Holdings: Yes, there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (by five votes to two).

Court’s Rationale: The Court reminded (as in Ramanauskas) that there must be adequate safeguards against abuse, as the public interest cannot justify the use of evidence obtained as a result of police incitement. The Court held that its function under Article 6 § 1 is to review the quality of the domestic courts’ assessment of the alleged entrapment and to ensure that they adequately secured the accused’s rights of defence.

The Court had taken into account the following circumstances: there was no evidence that M. had committed any drug offences beforehand. Secondly, the Criminal Conduct Simulation Model was not fully disclosed before the trial court, particularly regarding the purported suspicions about M.’s previous conduct. Moreover, it was Officer V. who took the initiative when he first approached M., asking where he could acquire illegal drugs, and M. then offered to supply them himself. Furthermore, as the transaction progressed, M. was offered a significant sum of money to supply a large amount of narcotics – this obviously represented an inducement to produce the goods. Finally, the first instance court recognized the decisive role played by the police.

The Court agrees with the Government’s position that the Criminal Conduct Simulation Model had been authorised only in respect of M. Nevertheless, during the execution of the model, the police officers uncovered the persons committing crimes, including the Applicant. Thereafter, the Court elaborates on former arguments and reflections.

In these circumstances the Court finds that there has accordingly been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. 

Just satisfaction: The Court held that the finding of a violation constitutes in itself a sufficient just satisfaction (non-pecuniary damages). The Court also recalled that, where an individual had been convicted by a court in unfair proceedings, a retrial or reopening of the case represented in principle an appropriate way of redressing the violation.

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