U-I-14/20, Up-844/16

Reference no.:
U-I-14/20, Up-844/16
Objavljeno:
Official Gazette RS, No. 89/20 and OdlUS XXV, 10 | 14.05.2020
ECLI:
ECLI:SI:USRS:2020:U.I.14.20
Abstract:
[Publisher's Note: The full text of this Decision/Order is available only in Slovene. This is a summary that has been prepared for informational purposes only.]
 
 
The Regulation of House Arrest as an Alternative Form of Serving a Prison Sentence
 
In Decision No. U-I-14/20, Up-844/16, dated 14 May 2020 (Official Gazette RS, No. 89/20), the Constitutional Court reviewed the constitutionality of the regulation of house arrest. A local court rejected the complainant’s motion to convert his three-month prison sentence to house arrest as it was filed too late. The complainant alleged that the regulation according to which a motion to convert a prison sentence to house arrest may only be filed within fifteen days of the judgement of conviction becoming final, while a motion to convert a prison sentence to imprisonment at weekends may also be filed during the service of a prison sentence, violates the right to equality before the law determined by the second paragraph of Article 14 of the Constitution.
 
Imprisonment at weekends, house arrest, and community work are alternative forms of enforcement of prison sentences that are determined by the Slovene legal order and reflect a humane criminal justice policy that aims to limit repression in the enforcement of criminal sanctions when the enforcement of a prison sentence in a correctional institution is not necessary or feasible.
 
In the case at issue, the Constitutional Court established that the position of persons who have filed a motion for the alternative enforcement of a prison sentence in the form of house arrest is the same as the position of persons who have filed a motion for imprisonment at weekends, since a prison sentence based on a final judgment was imposed on both groups of persons and the law enables their prison sentences to be enforced in a more humane manner that interferes with their personal freedom to a lesser extent. Although the substantive conditions for the imposition of the individual alternative forms of enforcement of prison sentences are different and they reflect the slightly different purpose of each individual institution (i.e. the purpose of enabling a prisoner to work or pursue an education is in the foreground as regards imprisonment at weekends, whereas this does not apply to house arrest), in the assessment of the Constitutional Court, this does not justify different time limits for filing such motions. With regard to the regulated subject matter, the substantive conditions are similar in that some of them (i.e. enrolment in educational activities, illness, and disability) are more likely to arise while serving a prison sentence than others (i.e. taking up employment, being of an advanced age, and a change of other personal and professional circumstances). The Constitutional Court held that some conditions for house arrest, such as illness and disability, entail even more severe and unforeseeable circumstances, which may lead to the deterioration of a convict’s health and may occur while serving a prison sentence. It concluded from the above that, with regard to the regulated subject matter, petitioners requesting either of the alternative forms of enforcement of a prison sentence are in essentially the same position. In the opinion of the Constitutional Court, the differences should in fact dictate more favourable and not more stringent regulation of the procedural requirements for house arrest than for imprisonment at weekends.
 
Although petitioners who request house arrest are in an essentially equal position as those who request imprisonment at weekends, they are treated unequally regarding the possibility to effectively request the conversion of the manner of enforcement of their prison sentence. The time limit for filing a motion for house arrest is namely significantly shorter than the time limit accorded to those filing a motion for imprisonment at weekends, i.e. merely up to 15 days after the judgement of conviction becomes final, while petitioners who request imprisonment at weekends may file a motion during the entire time of serving their prison sentence.
 
The Constitutional Court established that the proposers of the regulation at issue envisaged house arrest also, for example, for those convicted persons who fall seriously ill while serving a prison sentence, so they can serve their prison sentence in a more humane manner. It held that the time limit for filing a motion for house arrest that was subsequently determined by the second paragraph of Article 129a of the Criminal Procedure Act drastically limited the attainment of one of the aims due to which the institution of house arrest had been enacted in the first place. As the legislature did not have objective grounds that could justify a different (less favourable) manner of regulating the length of the objective time limit for filing a motion for house arrest as compared to filing a motion for imprisonment at weekends, the Constitutional Court established the partial inconsistency of the second paragraph of Article 129a of the Criminal Procedure Act with the second paragraph of Article 14 of the Constitution and required the legislature to eliminate such. It decided that until the established inconsistency is eliminated, a motion to convert a prison sentence into house arrest may be filed until the end of the period of serving a prison sentence. It further concluded that the complainant's right to equality before the law was violated by the challenged court decisions for the same reasons that render the challenged statutory regulation inconsistent with the second paragraph of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Note:
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Type of procedure:
review of constitutionality and legality of regulations and other general acts constitutional complaint
Type of act:
individual act statute
Applicant:
A. B., C.
Date of application:
17.10.2016
Date of decision:
14.05.2020
Type of decision adopted:
decision
Outcome of proceedings:
establishment – it is inconsistent with the Constitution/statute establishment of a human right violation
Document:
AN04026