Velinov v ‘The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia’: ECHR 19 Sep 2013

Article 5-1-b
Non-compliance with court order
Deprivation of liberty to enforce fine that had already been paid: violation
Facts – In 2000 the applicant was convicted of a minor offence and ordered to pay a fine within fifteen days of the judgment becoming final. He was informed that if he did not pay in time the fine would be converted into a prison sentence. In November 2001 the trial court ordered the applicant to pay the fine and appear in court in order to submit proof of payment. In February 2002 the fine was converted into a two-day prison sentence. Six days later the applicant paid the fine but did not produce evidence of payment to the trial court. In 28 October 2002 he was imprisoned before being released the next day after producing the requisite evidence.
Law – Article 5 – 1 (b): The Court had to examine two issues: whether the fact that the fine was paid after it had been converted into a prison sentence had made the applicant’s subsequent imprisonment unlawful and whether the applicant’s failure to notify the court that he had paid the fine had justified his imprisonment.
As to the first issue, unlike the position with respect to partial payment of a fine, there were no rules governing the position where a fine, in respect of which a prison sentence had been imposed in default of payment, was subsequently paid in full. Under the legislation governing partial payment, the unpaid part of the fine would be converted into a prison sentence but the sentence would end if the fine was then paid. There was no reason why this rule could not have been relied on in the applicant’s case, as it was evident from the release order that he was released on the basis of evidence of payment. In these circumstances, the basis for the applicant’s detention under Article 5 – 1 (b) of the Convention had ceased to exist as soon as he complied with the payment order.
As to the second issue, the applicant had not notified the trial court of the payment, despite being ordered to do so. Noting that failure, the trial court had concluded that no responsibility could attach to the State for the applicant’s subsequent arrest and detention. However, there was no statutory provision requiring the applicant to notify the court of the payment. Furthermore, he was arrested and imprisoned over eight months after the detention order was issued and he had paid the fine, but the Ministry of Finance had not informed the trial court of the payment. The applicant’s failure to notify the trial court that he had paid the fine could not release the respondent State from the obligation to have in place an efficient system for recording the payment of court fines. The decision-making process in matters where a person’s liberty was at stake should have taken into account all the relevant circumstances of the case. The importance of the applicant’s right to liberty required the respondent State to take all necessary measures in order to avoid his liberty being unduly restricted. In view of the foregoing, the applicant’s detention had been contrary to Article 5 – 1 (b) of the Convention.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).

16880/08 – Legal Summary, [2013] ECHR 960
European Convention on Human Rights 5(1)(b)
Human Rights

Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.516479