Van Mechelen And Others v The Netherlands: ECHR 23 Apr 1997

A Dutch court had convicted the applicants of attempted manslaughter and robbery on the basis of statements made, before their trial, by anonymous police officers, none of whom gave evidence before the Regional Court or the investigating judge. The Court of Appeal referred the case to the investigating judge who arranged hearings in which he, a registrar and the anonymous witnesses were in one room, while the applicants, their lawyers and the Advocate General were in another room. The two rooms were connected by a sound link only. Held: There had been a breach of article 6(3)(d) since the defence were not only unaware of the identity of the police witnesses but were also prevented from observing their demeanour under direct questioning, and thus from testing their reliability. It had not been explained to the Court’s satisfaction why it was necessary to resort to such extreme limitations on the right of the accused to have the evidence against them given in their presence, or why less far-reaching measures were not considered. Any handicaps placed on the defence in criminal proceedings should be sufficiently counterbalanced by the procedures allowed by the judicial authorities, and ‘Having regard to the place that the right to a fair administration of justice holds in a democratic society, any measures restricting the rights of the defence should be strictly necessary. If a less restrictive measure can suffice then that measure should be applied’.
ECHR Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) – Violation of Art. 6-1+6-3-d; Just satisfaction reserved; Costs and expenses award – Convention proceedings.


(1997) 25 EHRR 647, [1997] ECHR 22, 2 BHRC 486, 21427/93, 21363/93


Worldlii, Bailii


European Convention on Human Rights 6.1

Cited by:

CitedRegina v H; Regina v C HL 5-Feb-2004
Use of Special Counsel as Last Resort Only
The accused faced charges of conspiring to supply Class A drugs. The prosecution had sought public interest immunity certificates. Special counsel had been appointed by the court to represent the defendants’ interests at the applications.
CitedD (A Minor), Regina (on the Application of) v Camberwell Green Youth Court HL 27-Jan-2005
The defendant challenged the obligatory requirement that evidence given by a person under 17 in sex or violent offence cases must normally be given by video link.
Held: The purpose of the section was to improve the quality of the evidence . .
CitedSellick and Sellick, Regina v CACD 14-Mar-2005
The defendants appealed convictions for murder saying that the court had had read to it the statements of four witnesses who refused to attend for fear, having been intimidated. Other witnesses had been unco-operative and had been treated by the . .
CitedRoberts v Parole Board HL 7-Jul-2005
Balancing Rights of Prisoner and Society
The appellant had been convicted of the murder of three police officers in 1966. His tariff of thirty years had now long expired. He complained that material put before the Parole Board reviewing has case had not been disclosed to him.
Held: . .
CitedRegina v Davis (Iain); Regina v Ellis, Regina v Gregory, Regina v Simms, Regina v Martin CACD 19-May-2006
The several defendants complained at the use at their trials of evidence given anonymously. The perceived need for anonymity arose because, from intimidation, the witnesses would not be willing to give their evidence without it.
Held: The . .
See AlsoVan Mechelen And Others v The Netherlands ECHR 30-Oct-1997
The defendant’s right to a fair trial had been infringed where anonymous police witnesses gave evidence against the defendant in circumstances such that, not only did the defendant know their identities, but he was unable to observe their demeanour . .
CitedSecretary of State for the Home Department v MB; Same v AF HL 31-Oct-2007
Non-derogating control orders – HR Compliant
MB and AF challenged non-derogating control orders made under the 2005 Act, saying that they were incompatible with their human rights. AF was subject to a curfew of 14 hours a day, wore an electronic tag at all times, could not leave a nine square . .
CitedRegina v Davis HL 18-Jun-2008
The defendant had been tried for the murder of two men by shooting them at a party. He was identified as the murderer by three witnesses who had been permitted to give evidence anonymously, from behind screens, because they had refused, out of fear, . .
CitedSecretary of State for the Home Department v AF AM and AN etc CA 17-Oct-2008
The claimants were subject to non-derogating control orders, being non EU nationals suspected of terrorism. They now said that they had not had a compatible hearing as to the issue of whether they were in fact involved in terrorist activity.
CitedRegina v D(R) Misc 16-Sep-2013
Crown Court at Blackfriars – the court was asked to what extent a witness wanting, from religious conviction, to hide her face with the niqaab form of Islamic dress should be allowed to do so, whilst giving evidence.
Held: The court considered . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Criminal Practice

Updated: 04 June 2022; Ref: scu.165495