Football “rioter” Garry Mann loses Euro human rights appeal

23 February 2011 by

Garry Norman MANN v Portugual and the United Kingdom – 360/10 [2011] ECHR 337 (1 February 2011) – Read judgment

Garry Mann, a football fan who was convicted to two years in a Portuguese jail for rioting after an England match in 2004, has lost his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction and extradition.

Mann has always denied taking part in the riot. The full background to the case is set out here. The case has been subject to a number of court hearings in the UK, including two judicial review hearings against his proposed extradition to Portugal to serve his prison sentence. He has also already had a claim in the European court rejected.

Lord Justice Moses said in a January 2010 ruling that he could not “leave this application without remarking upon the inability of this court to rectify what appears to be a serious injustice to Mr Mann”. But he accepted that the court was powerless to act.

Mann was ultimately extradited in May 2010, despite an earlier stay of execution. This was his second appeal to the European court. His first appeal was on the basis that his trial had been unfair, and it was rejected in January 2010 as it was too late, having been made over 6 months after the decision being challenged.

Mann’s arguments in the new challenge to the European Court of Human Rights were that:

  1. He had not been informed of the nature of the charge against him. This was compounded by the deficiencies in interpretation at his trial.
  2. He had not been provided with a lawyer until the morning of his trial. They had a five-minute conference before the trial but the lawyer spoke only limited English and the interpreter had not been present.
  3. The Albufeira Judicial Court had refused to allow the applicant to call alibi witnesses: it was stated that the applicant had had enough witnesses and there was no time to call more witnesses.
  4. The quality of interpretation had been wholly deficient. The interpreter from the morning session had been replaced and none of the interpreters had been capable of simultaneous interpretation for all twelve defendants.

He claimed his sentence of imprisonment gave rise to a violation of his rights under Articles 5 (right to liberty), 6 (right to a fair trial) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention. As such, the United Kingdom should not extradite him as it would be likely to lead to a flagrant denial of justice.

The court held that none of his complaints were admissible. As to article 6, the complaints were very similar to those he made in the first application:

the Court considers that the complaints now made in respect of Article 6 are reformulations of those previously advanced in the first application. The applicant has advanced more detailed submissions than those first put before the Court but those submissions have the same factual basis and merely seek to support the previous complaints with new legal argument. No new information has been advanced as to the circumstances of the applicant’s trial and, most significantly, none which would cause the Court to reconsider its ruling that the first application was out of time because the final domestic decision was that of the Albufeira Judicial Court in 2004.

As such,

to the extent that the applicant appears to argue that the violation of his right to a fair trial had only arisen due to the recent decision of the Portuguese authorities to enforce the sentence imposed in 2004, the Court recalls that he was arrested on foot of the European Arrest Warrant on 19 March 2009: he was therefore aware of the decision to enforce the sentence before he lodged his first application. Therefore, he could, if he had wished, have made submissions in that application as to why the appropriate date for calculation of the six months’ time-limit was the decision to request his extradition and not the decision of the Albufeira Judicial Court in 2004.

So he was, again, out of time.

As to articles 5 and 13, there simply was not a flagrant denial of justice in this case:

The Court considers that its foregoing conclusions in respect of the Article 6 complaint mean that it would be inappropriate to make any factual findings in respect of the applicant’s allegations under that Article. However, it is bound to observe that it is a matter of dispute as to how the trial was conducted before the Albufeira Judicial Court. In particular, the Court notes that two different judges who have examined the case file, albeit in the context of proceedings in the United Kingdom, have reached different conclusions as to the extent to which the trial was fair.

The court also considered the fact that Mann had (allegedly) failed to lodge an appeal, and that therefore the Portuguese appeal court had no chance to consider the case, was also an important factor. It is more difficult to show that the Portuguese system as a whole since Mann did not go through all of the steps available to him.

It was recently reported that Mann would be transferred to a UK prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence. This would appear to be his last chance to challenge that sentence, although the concerns raised over his extradition by way of an European Arrest Warrant, as well as those expressed by the high court in relation to Portuguese justice, will remain.

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