Police Law Blog European Decisions Statutory Materials

€7,000 for inadequate investigation into complaint of police assault due to destruction of police video

In Posa v Hungary [2020] ECHR 522, the European Court of Human Rights awarded €7,000 to a person whose complaint of police assault could not be properly investigated due to destruction of the incident footage after thirty days.

The applicant claimed that on 3 November 2011, anti-terrorist officers used excessive force when arresting him on suspicion of involvement in a robbery by kneeling on him, twisting his arms, striking him, handcuffing him, dragging him on the floor, kicking him several times and punching him repeatedly in their car [4]-[5].

Due to a lack of evidence, the court felt compelled to dismiss the applicant’s claim of a breach of the substantive limb of Article 3 [26]-[27]. Nevertheless, the court held that the injuries and circumstances of arrest gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that the police may have ill-treated him [28]. In those circumstances, the authorities had an obligation to perform an effective investigation into the applicant’s allegations of police assault [29].

As to this, there was police video of the entire incident but this had been destroyed after the statutory thirty-day period. This was a remarkably tight deadline. Had this not been the case, the authorities may have had strong evidence to prove or disprove the applicant’s allegations. Further, there was no police medical report sheet, normally completed on the apprehension of suspects, which could have shed more light on the circumstances of the incident [31].

In consequence, the authorities were unable to perform a thorough and effective investigation of the complainant’s claim of ill-treatment. An adequate investigation would have required diligence and promptness whereas the prosecutor requested the video on 29 February 2012, nearly four months after the incident and when the statutory thirty-day period for retention had long expired [32].

This amounted to a breach of the Article 3 procedural limb, for which the court awarded €7,000 [35].