European Court of Human Rights holds that Malta violated British national’s right to liberty

Tuesday 24 March 2015

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Kolakovic v Malta has ruled that the right to liberty of Mr Jovica Kolakovic, a British national, was violated by his lengthy ongoing detention following the decision to grant him bail.

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Mr Kolakovic was arrested in Malta in September 2009. He made numerous bail applications over the next 16 months, all of which were refused, and was eventually granted bail in January 2011 following the issuing of constitutional proceedings alleging a violation of Article 5 (the right to liberty and security) of the European Covention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Mr Kolakovic’s bail conditions included sizeable financial guarantees, which he was unable to meet, and he remained in detention following the grant of bail. Mr Kolakovic issued a further set of constitutional proceedings alleging a violation of Article 5 ECHR. In April 2012, the financial conditions of Mr Kolakovic’s bail were reduced sufficiently for him to meet them and he was finally released on bail, 29 months after he was first detained, and over 15 months after he was first granted bail.

The ECtHR held that Mr Kolakovic’s 15½ months of continued detention, following the grant of bail, suggested that the Maltese courts had not taken the necessary care in setting his bail. The Maltese courts had given no indication that the reason they had refused to reduce the financial conditions of bail was due to insufficient financial information being provided by Mr Kolakovic; by September 2011, at the very latest, Mr Kolakovic’s financial position had become completely clear. Despite this, Mr Kolakovic was detained for a further seven months.

In addition, the Maltese authorities had failed to conduct the criminal proceedings with the requisite diligence and no steps were taken to speed up the proceedings, despite Mr Kolakovic’s ongoing post-bail detention. Taken together, these deficiencies violated his rights under Article 5 § 3.

Jesse Nicholls represented Mr Kolakovic, and was instructed by Alex Peebles of Irwin Mitchell, and, previously, Hannah Uglow of the Kent Law Clinic.

Further details are available in the judgment.

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