Piper v The United Kingdom: ECHR 21 Apr 2015

ECHR Article 41
Just satisfaction
Absence of award in respect of non-pecuniary damage where delays in confiscation proceedings were mainly attributable to applicant
Facts – In June 2001 the applicant was found guilty of drug-trafficking offences and sentenced to fourteen years’ imprisonment (he was released in 2006). By virtue of his conviction he became liable to confiscation of assets under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994. The compensation proceedings ended with a judgment of the Court of Appeal in March 2010 upholding a confiscation order at first instance in which the total amount of the applicant’s benefit from criminal conduct was assessed at over 1,800,000 pounds sterling. In his application to the European Court, the applicant complained of the length of the confiscation proceedings (Article 6 – 1 of the Convention).
Law – Article 6 – 1: The period to be taken into account commenced with the applicant’s arrest in January 1999 and ended with the judgment of the Court of Appeal in March 2010 (approximately eleven years, two months). Although the applicant had pursued a series of fruitless appeals, there had also been delays in the case attributable to the State authorities totalling approximately three years. Given, in particular, what had been at stake for the applicant, and notwithstanding the fact that he was himself responsible for the majority of the overall delay, the Court found that the proceedings had not been completed within a reasonable time.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 41: As regards the applicant’s claim for non-pecuniary damage, the Court accepted that, although not fully identified, some of the ‘strain’ experienced by the applicant during the course of the confiscation proceedings had inextricably been linked to the issue of delay. However, that ‘very limited uncertainty’ (in the words of the Court of Appeal) could not be taken to have caused the applicant substantial prejudice at all. Furthermore, it was far from the totality of the extraordinary length of the proceedings that had been found to be attributable to the respondent State. On the contrary, it was the applicant himself who, after being convicted of a serious offence of drug-trafficking involving potentially enormous rewards for himself but much damage to society, was largely responsible for preventing the proceedings aimed at confiscating his assets being brought to a timely close. As the national judges and the Court of Appeal in particular had pointed out, the applicant had ‘deployed every legal stratagem to delay the confiscation process’ and succeeded in his endeavour. Faced with various objections and requirements from the applicant’s legal team, the judge in the confiscation proceedings had sought to strike a balance between the need to prevent delay in the proceedings and the importance of allowing the applicant adequate time to prepare and mount his defence.
Having regard to these particular circumstances, the Court did not consider it ‘necessary’, in the terms of Article 41 of the Convention, to afford the applicant any financial compensation and held that the finding of a violation of Article 6 – 1 by reason of the delay in the proceedings attributable to the respondent State in itself constituted adequate just satisfaction for the purposes of the Convention.


44547/10 (Legal Summary), [2015] ECHR 480




European Convention on Human Rights, Drug Trafficking Act 1994


Human Rights

Human Rights, Criminal Sentencing

Updated: 08 September 2022; Ref: scu.546890