The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
The ECtHR is the extra step built into the Criminal Justice System to allow us to pursue a client’s interests beyond the Courts in England & Wales. Not many lawyers have experience of the European Court. We have made a point of ensuring that we have significant experience of the European Court so as to assist clients in appropriate cases to pursue their case beyond the English and Welsh Courts.
The problems faced with the ECtHR includes the fact that there is no legal aid available unless or until the Court accepts the case and it is to be set down for an oral hearing and also that you have little genuine control over the early process which can result in the Petition to the Court being rejected with no reason given.
It is very difficult to get involved in an ECtHR case unless we were involved in the case earlier (usually for the trial), or alternatively if the paperwork from earlier hearings is supplied in a form that permits us to understand the case without delay and the client can afford to cover the costs involved to get us up to speed with the issues. It is most unfortunate that this stage can be expensive with little chance of recouping the full outlay.
For these reasons the number of cases sent to the ECtHR is not as great as perhaps it could be. A case that demonstrates the importance of the ECtHR is Lewis and Edwards v UK as it took the ECtHR to point out a blind spot the Judges in England & Wales had with regard to their role in determining public interest arguments and then deciding other issues where they were making decisions on the facts (even though they were aware of matters of fact that were relevant to the issue but completely unknown to the defendant and his lawyers). At present we are awaiting various decisions from the Court but they remain confidential unless/until they are decided or dealt with in open court.
There remains an image however that the Courts in England and Wales believe they are in some sort of battle with the ECtHR for dominance which can often result in the domestic courts looking for ways to avoid decisions in Strasbourg instead of embracing them.
Contact Dennis Clarke to discuss your case and be satisfied that we can offer the skill and service that you need.