Violation of Article 6 § 1 (length)
The applicants, Andrea, Anna and Antonio Stornaiuolo, are Italian nationals who were born in 1939, 1937 and 1947 respectively and live in Naples (Italy).
The applicants owned land in Naples which was occupied by the authorities in March 1974 with a view to its expropriation. On 18 July 1977 the applicants brought proceedings contesting the amount of compensation for expropriation which had been offered to them. In 1990 an expert assessed the market value of the land at 26,600 Italian lire (ITL) per square metre. However, in accordance with the criteria laid down by Law no. 359 of 1992, the applicants were awarded ITL 13,301 per square metre. The proceedings ended on 6 February 2002.
Under the “Pinto Act”, the applicants applied to the court of appeal for compensation in respect of the length of the proceedings to which they had been a party. On 25 March 2002 the court of appeal recognised that the proceedings had been excessively long and awarded the applicants EUR 3,500 each for non-pecuniary damage only. It also awarded them compensation in respect of the costs of the proceedings.
Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time), the applicants complained of the excessive length of the proceedings to which they had been a party (24- and-a-half years for three levels of jurisdiction) and of the derisory amount of damages awarded by the Italian courts. In addition, relying on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), they complained that their right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions had been infringed as a result of the amount of expropriation compensation paid under Law no. 359 of 1992.
The Court reiterated that Italy’s position regarding delays in the administration of justice had not changed sufficiently to call into question the conclusion that the accumulation of breaches constituted a practice that was incompatible with the Convention. The fact that the “Pinto” proceedings, examined as a whole, had not caused the applicants to lose their “victim” status constituted an aggravating circumstance regarding a breach of Article 6 § 1 for exceeding the reasonable time. Observing that the length of the proceedings in question was excessive and failed to satisfy the “reasonable-time” requirement, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.
The Court considered that the interference with the applicants’ right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions had been provided for by law and pursued an aim in the public interest. As to whether it had been proportionate, the Court noted that the compensation awarded to the applicants, which had been calculated on the basis of the criteria laid down by Law no. 359 of 1992, had been substantially below the market value of the land in question, and that there had been no justification for that on public-interest grounds. A disproportionate and excessive burden had therefore been placed on the applicants, which could not be justified by any legitimate public-interest aim pursued by the authorities. Accordingly, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
By way of just satisfaction, the Court awarded the applicants EUR 600,000 for pecuniary damage, EUR 24,500 for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 25,000 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in French.)
(estratto dal sito della Corte europea dei diritti dell’uomo)