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Public hearings: the overarching principle

Held: the principle of an oral and public hearing was particularly important in the criminal context. The obligation to hold a hearing was not, however, absolute. There could be proceedings in which an oral hearing might not be required; for example where there were no issues of credibility or contested facts and the court could fairly and reasonably decide the case on the basis of the parties’ submissions and other written materials. The authorities could also have regard to the demands of efficiency and economy. However, the character of the circumstances that might justify dispensing with an oral hearing essentially came down to the nature of the issues to be decided. The overarching principle of fairness was the key consideration. That the proceedings were of considerable personal significance to the applicant was not decisive for the necessity of a hearing. No violation of Article 6.

Jusila v. Finland (2007) 45 EHRR 39

Facts: the Tax Office imposed surcharges on the Applicant as his VAT declarations for 1994 and 1995 were incomplete. The Applicant appealed to the Administrative Court, requested an oral hearing and demanded that a tax inspector and an expert be heard as witnesses. The Court refused on the basis it had all necessary information in writing, and proceeded to determine the appeal on the papers.

 

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