Violation of the principle of ne bis in idem in proceedings against the applicant for a breach of the peace during a football match

In the case of Velkov v. Bulgaria (application no. 34503/10) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 (right not to be tried or punished twice) of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The case concerned the applicant’s complaint that he had been convicted twice of the same offence of breaching the peace during a football match. 

The Court noted that the applicant’s actions had given rise to two separate sets of proceedings, each concerning “criminal charges”. It also observed that the offences for which he had been punished in both sets of proceedings related to the same wrongful conduct occurring during the same sporting event. 

The two sets of proceedings had started at the same time and had been conducted in parallel until 29 May 2008, when the administrative proceedings had been concluded by a final judgment. The criminal proceedings had carried on and had concluded more than two years and four months later, in October 2010. In view of its case-law, the Court therefore considered that there had been a sufficiently close connection in time between the two sets of proceedings. 

As to the existence of a connection in substance between the two sets of proceedings, the Court noted firstly that the administrative and criminal proceedings had pursued essentially the same purpose, namely to punish the breach of the peace caused by the applicant during the football match on 17 May 2008. 

The Court attached particular importance to the fact that the two sets of proceedings had pursued the same punitive purpose. The Court held in particular that, given the lack of a sufficiently close connection in substance between the administrative and criminal proceedings against the applicant, those proceedings could not be regarded as forming part of an integral scheme of sanctions under domestic law aimed at combating the phenomenon of sports hooliganism. Hence, the applicant had been prosecuted and punished twice for the same offence, in breach of the ne bis in idem principle. There had therefore been a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention.

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights