Penev v. Bulgaria

European Court of Human Rights
7 January 2010


The applicant, Mr. Penev was convicted for exceeding his powers as an insolvency trustee. The court of appeals upheld the judgment, but the court of cassation acquitted Mr. Penev, as only state officials could be found guilty of exceeding their powers. The court of cassation, however, convicted Mr. Penev of deliberately entering into a contract which was disadvantageous to the company.


The applicant complained that he had not been given the opportunity to defend himself against the charge brought by the court of cassation in violation of his right to fair trial. 

Court's ruling

The Court reiterated that the right to a fair trial guaranteed the defendant the right to be informed, in detail, not only of the cause of the accusation, that is to say the acts he is alleged to have committed and on which the accusation is based, but also the legal characterisation given to those acts. This right does not mean that the information has to be given in a specific format, but it has to be sufficient to ensure that the accused can  prepare his defence. The Court observed in the particular case that the offences of acting in excess of power and of deliberately entering into a disadvantageous contract differed under Bulgarian law and that the elements of the latter offence were never debated throughout Mr. Penev’s investigation or trial. It was only through the final judgment of the court of cassation that he became aware of the new legal characterisation of the facts. Therefore the Court concluded that Mr. Penev was not informed in detail of the nature and the cause of the accusation against him, he was not afforded adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence. Therefore there was a violation of his right to a fair trial.

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Last updated 22/07/2024