Advancing human rights and equality
through public interest litigation

Email  Twitter

9-year Scottish murder trial was found to have breached human rights

O’Neill and Lauchlan v the United Kingdom (Application Nos. 41516/10 and 75702/13)
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that criminal proceedings in the UK ran beyond the reasonable period of time permitted under Article 6 of the ECHR.
The facts were that two male applicants who lived in Scotland, had been accused of the murder of their female flatmate in 2005.  However, no prosecution had been brought due to insufficient evidence.  By 2008 new evidence was brought to light and the applicants were served with an indictment.  The charges were identical to the original petition with the addition of various sexual offences.  Despite continued complaints about the delays and other attempts to have the proceedings discontinued, the applicants were unsuccessful in having the charges dropped. 
The murder trials took place in 2010 resulting in convictions for murder and sexual offences.  The applicants appealed against their convictions and sentences.  The appeal Court eventually granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in April 2012 and judgment was given in June 2013.
Under the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Executive must not act in a manner incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.  The right to fair trial encompasses a right to fair hearing ‘within a reasonable time.’
When considering whether the length of proceedings can be said to be reasonable, the Court will consider the proceedings as a whole.  While no single stage of the proceedings could be considered unreasonable, although the appeal stage lasted around four years, the cumulative length of proceedings was held to be unreasonable and the Court unanimously found a violation of Article 6(1) of the Convention.
Please read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

Criminal Law, ECHR Art. 6, European Law, Right to Fair Trial