This reference for a preliminary ruling was made by the Regional Court of the Budapest metropolitan area (Budapest Környéki Törvényszék) in a special procedure for the recognition of the effects of a final criminal judgment rendered by an Austrian court. The latter had sentenced Mr Balogh, a Hungarian national, for burglary to a prison sentence of four years and six month, which Mr Balogh is serving in Austria. According to the information provided by the Austrian Government, Mr Balogh was assisted in Austria by a translator who orally informed him of the judgment; however, he received the translated version of the judgment only a year after the judgment had been handed down.
In application of Framework Decision 2009/315 on the organisation and content of the exchange of information extracted from the criminal record between Member States, the Austrian criminal record service informed the competent Hungarian authorities of Mr Balogh’s conviction. Thereafter, the Hungarian ministry of Justice informed the Austrian court that, in order for Hungary to recognize the judgment, the decision would need to be notified, as this is required by the special Hungarian procedure for the recognition of foreign judgments.
It is in this context that the referring court stayed proceedings and referred the following question to the ECJ:
Article 1(1) of Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings reads: ‘This Directive lays down rules concerning the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings and proceedings for the execution of an European arrest warrant’. Must this formulation be taken to mean, inter alia, that, during a special procedure (Chapter XXIX of a büntetőeljárásról szóló 1998. évi XIX. törvény (Law XIX of 1998 on criminal procedure)), a court in Hungary must apply this Directive, that is to say, must a special procedure under Hungarian law be regarded as being covered by the expression ‘criminal proceedings’, or must this expression be interpreted as referring only to procedures which conclude with a final decision concerning the criminal liability of the defendant?'
The ECJ starts by reformulating the question in the following terms: Must Directive 2010/64, Framework Decision 2009/315 and Decision 2009/316 be interpreted as precluding the implementation of national legislation establishing a special procedure for recognition by a court of a Member State of a final decision, handed down by a court in another Member State, convicting a person for the commission of an offence, such as the special procedure at issue in the main proceedings, which provides, inter alia, that that person is responsible for the costs of translating that decision under that procedure?
The Court then ruled out the applicability of Directive 2010/64 to a special procedure such as that at issue in the main proceedings. However, Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA of 26 February 2009 on the organisation and content of the exchange of information extracted from the criminal record between Member States and Council Decision 2009/316/JHA of 6 April 2009 on the establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) in application of Article 11 of Framework Decision 2009/315 must be interpreted as precluding the implementation of national legislation establishing such a special procedure.
Case Number C-25/15
Name of the parties Criminal proceedings against István Balogh
Date of the judgement 2016-06-09
Court Court of Justice (ECJ)