Wednesday, February 08, 2012

EGMR: 10 or 12 Angry Men (or Women)? Absolute Vertraulichkeit der Beratungen von Geschworenen keine Verletzung des Art 10 EMRK

Mit Entscheidung vom 24.1.2012, Seckerson und Times Newspapers Ltd gegen Vereinigtes Königreich (Appl. nos. 32844/10 und 33510/10), hat der EGMR die Beschwerden eines Sprechers von Geschworenen in einem Strafverfahren und der Times Newspapers Ltd als unzulässig zurückgewiesen. Die Beschwerdeführer waren der Missachtung des Gerichts ("contempt of court") für schuldig befunden worden, weil sie Informationen über die Beratungen der Geschworenen in einem konkreten Strafverfahren offen gelegt hatten, was gesetzlich untersagt ist. In der Sache ging es um die Bedeutung medizinischer Gutachten als Beweismittel in einem Verfahren, in dem ein Kindermädchen wegen Tötung des in ihrer Obhut befindlichen Kindes verurteilt worden war. Die als Missachtung des Gerichts beurteilten Passagen, wie sie in Artikeln in der Times erschienen, lauteten:
"... the consensus was taken three minutes after the foreman was voted in. It was 10-2 against, all based on the evidence. After that there was no going back."
"Ultimately the case was decided by laymen and laywomen using that despicable enemy of correct and logical thinking, that wonderfully persuasive device, commonsense."
Schon der nationale Richter akzeptierte, dass der Sprecher der Geschworenen ernsthaft besorgt war über die Verwendung medizinischer Gutachten als Beweismittel in Geschworenenverfahren und dass die Artikel in einer angesehenen Zeitung erschienen waren, nach rechtlicher Beratung in gutem Glauben, und dass der Sprecher der Geschworenen nicht zu seinen Angaben gedrängt wurde, sondern selbst den Kontakt zur Zeitung gesucht hatte. Dennoch lag eine Verletzung des absoluten Vertraulichkeitsgebots vor und der Sprecher der Geschworenen wurde zu einer Strafe von GBP 500, die Times zu GBP 15.000 verurteilt.

Vor dem EGMR machten die Beschwerdeführer vor allem geltend, dass es um die wichtige und legitime Frage der Verwendung medizinischer Gutachten als Beweismittel in Geschworenenprozessen und damit um eine Debatte im allgemeinen Interesse gegangen sei. Dieses Thema sei unter anderem in einer Konsultation des UK Department of Constitutional Affairs und einem Bericht eines House of Commons Select Committe erörtert worden.

Der EGMR ließ sich davon nicht überzeugen; angesichts der Bedeutung der absoluten Vertraulichkeit, die eine offene und freie Beratung der Geschworenen ermöglichen soll, könne auch das absolute Vertraulichkeitsgebot nicht als unverhältnismäßig angesehen werden. Im Detail:
43.   For the Court, rules imposing requirements of confidentiality as regards judicial deliberations play an important role in maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary, by promoting free and frank discussion by those who are required to decide the issues which arise. In the case of judges, such rules also contribute to the guarantee of judicial independence, a core requirement of all Contracting States’ legal systems, by ensuring that each member of the bench may decide a case in full confidence that his or her vote will not be made public, except in so far as dissenting opinions are possible in the legal system concerned.
44.   As to lay jurors, who are often obliged by law to undertake jury service as part of their civic duties, it is essential that they be free to air their views and opinions on all aspects of the case and the evidence before them, without censoring themselves for fear of their general views or specific comments being disclosed to, and criticised in, the press. In this regard the Court recalls that in its judgment in the case of Gregory v. the United Kingdom, 25 February 1997, § 44 Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-I, it acknowledged that the rule governing the secrecy of jury deliberations was a crucial and legitimate feature of English trial law which served to reinforce the jury’s role as the ultimate arbiter of fact and to guarantee open and frank deliberations among jurors on the evidence which they had heard. It considers that the nature of this imperative is such that an absolute rule cannot be viewed as being unreasonable or disproportionate, given that any qualification or exception would necessarily lead to an element of doubt which could undermine the very objective which the legislation seeks to secure. 
45. As to the application of the rule to the specific facts of the case, the Court observes that it is not called upon in the present case to assess the compatibility with Article 10 of section 8 in circumstances involving a conviction for research into jury methods. Nor is the Court concerned with a case where the interests of justice could be said to require the disclosure of the jury’s deliberations: the applicants themselves argued that the disclosures did not seek to challenge or undermine the verdict in the particular case in question but to contribute to the serious debate concerning the use of expert medical evidence in criminal trials. The question in the present case is whether the disclosures offended against the secrecy of the jury deliberations such that the penalties imposed were justified under Article 10 § 2 of the Convention. In this regard, the Court observes, as noted by Pill LJ, that the disclosure of the 10-2 vote revealed the opinions expressed by ten members of the jury at an early stage of a long deliberation, and the reference to “no going back” indicated their firm intention not to change their minds. The reference to “despicable enemy of correct and logical thinking” revealed the first applicant’s assessment of the opinions of and statements expressed by the majority members, and constituted an accusation of incorrect and illogical thinking against them. The phrase “wonderfully persuasive device, common sense” disclosed their approach to the evidence, and in particular that they relied on common sense and not correct and logical thinking. The Court is accordingly satisfied that all of these disclosures offended against the secrecy of the deliberations of the jury.

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