Syytetyn puolustuksella oltava pääsy poliisin keräämiin tietoihin
Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuin on tänään antanut tuomion toimistomme hoitamassa asiassa, jossa kyse oli rikosasiasta, jonka tutkinnnan aikana tehdyn telekuuntelun aineisto on osin hävitetty ennen oikeudenkäyntiä. Ihmisoikeustuomioistuin totesi, että puolustuksella on oltava pääsy kaikkeen esitutkinnassa saatuun aineistoon. Poikkeukset ovat mahdollisia, mutta niiden on oltava ehdotoman välttämättömiä, niistä on viimekädessä päätettävä tuomioistuimessa ja puolustuksen täytyy päästä kuultavaksi siihen menettelyyn, jossa aineiston rajaamisesta tai hävittämisestä päätetään.
Tuomion suomenkielinen Finlex-seloste.
NATUNEN v. FINLAND
The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair hearing) of the European Convention on Human Rights, on account of recorded telephone conversations obtained through secret surveillance not having been disclosed at the applicant’s trial for drug trafficking.
1. Principal facts
The applicant, Mr Natunen, was born in 1962 and lives in Helsinki.
Mr Natunen and two other persons were suspected of trafficking in drugs. In October 2001 the police seized amphetamines from the possession of one of the two other suspects. According to the prosecution, they had arranged for the drugs to be hidden in a truck and transported from Estonia to Finland. They were all subsequently charged with aggravated drug offences.
All of the accused denied the charges; they stated that they had intended to buy weapons, not drugs. They submitted that this could be verified through their telephone conversations in the relevant period. The police, having collected evidence through telephone surveillance, informed Mr Natunen that all the calls related to the drugs offence – 21 recorded telephone conversations and 7 recorded text messages – had been included in the pre-trial investigation case file. Mr Natunen argued, however, that many other conversations, which had been relevant and could have proven his innocence in respect of the drugs offence, had been excluded from the file and had never been disclosed to him.
In 2002, the domestic courts, relying on the telephone recordings included in the file, found Mr Natunen guilty as charged and sentenced him to seven years in prison. On appeal he argued that the conversations which had not been included contained information proving his innocence; the prosecution maintained, however, that – in accordance with domestic law – those recordings had been destroyed as they had not been connected to any other offence which would have allowed the police to retain them without breaching the law.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 9 June 2004 and its admissibility was examined together with its merits.
Relying in particular on Article 6 §§ 1, and 3 (b), Mr Natunen complained about the unfairness of the proceedings against him. He alleged in particular that destroying a major part of the telephone recordings was not in conformity with the principle of equality of arms and prevented him from adequately preparing his defence.
Decision of the Court
The Court first observed that the destruction of some of the recordings obtained through telephone surveillance had made it impossible for Mr Natunen to have his claim of innocence verified. The Court also noted that the recordings had been destroyed by the police at the pre-trial stage without having consulted Mr Natunen or his lawyer and without having given the courts the possibility to assess their relevance.The Court found that that destruction had been a direct result of the application of the relevant domestic legislation in force at the time, which had been defective as it had allowed information supporting the innocence of the suspect to be destroyed before the case had been decided. While the Court noted that the legislation had since been amended, and the defect eliminated, it held that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 taken together with Article 6 § 3 (b) as this legislative amendment had come too late for Mr Natunen.