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Dolores Utrilla
7th February 2020
Human Rights Justice & Litigation

Italian Court in breach of the ECHR due to lack of reasoning

In its judgment in Felloni v. Italy, released yesterday, the ECtHR held, unanimously, that Italy infringed the right to a fair hearing in Article 6(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), but that there was no violation of the prohibition of punishment without law under Article 7 ECHR.

The case stems from the criminal conviction of the applicant for driving under the influence of alcohol and his claim that the sentencing court had retroactively applied harsher criminal legislation to him, in particular because he was not granted the benefit of mitigating circumstances foreseen in the law in force at the time of the facts. He also complained that the Court of Cassation had not given reasons for dismissing his appeal.

The ECtHR found that the criminal law in force at the time of the facts did not provide for any automatic acknowledgment of the mitigating circumstances invoked by the applicant. It only shaped such circumstances as criteria to be taken into account by the sentencing judge, a situation that did not change substantially after the reform of Italian criminal legislation. For this reason, the ECtHR considered that there was no retrospective application of harsher criminal law and dismissed the plea regarding the violation of Article 7 ECHR.

Nevertheless, the Strasbourg-based court held that the Italian Court of Cassation infringed Article 6(1) ECtHR by merely declaring inadmissible all the grounds of appeal raised by the applicant, without responding to the plea concerning the allegedly retrospective application of criminal law to his case. According to the ECtHR, a specific and explicit response for this claim was necessary because of its importance within the applicant’s appeal and also because it was not evident that it concerned a factual question outside the remit of the Italian Court of Cassation.

The judgment is available here (in French).


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