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ECtHR: teenager’s detention in shelter violated Convention

Maksimilian Grabowski, aged seventeen, was arrested by the police on the charge of robbery. A court started proceedings in his case and placed him at a youth shelter. In consequence of that, Mr Grabowski spent in the shelter five months more than he was supposed to, and the lawfulness of his detention has never been reviewed by the court. The ECtHR ruled that in this case the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

Under the Juvenile Justice Act, a period of placement at a youth shelter preceding a case going to trial may not be longer than three months. After the case goes to trial there is no requirement of a separate court order extending the placement period.

“The law sets out a period during which a minor can stay at a shelter, which is maximum three months. The law also says that a minor cannot stay at a shelter for more than a year after the first-instance judgement is pronounced. However, the court is not legally required to review, on an ongoing basis, the grounds for the placement at a youth shelter after judicial examination starts, as is the case in respect of pre-trial detention. This is the legal loophole the Strasbourg Court pointed out in its ruling against Poland”, says Katarzyna Wiśniewska, a lawyer working with the HFHR.

Also the HFHR pointed to that issue in the course of legislative works on the amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act, but the problem has not been remedied. The Ombudsman for Children and Human Rights Defender have raised concerns over the regulation as well.

The ECtHR argued in the judgment that in light of the Convention standards it must be assumed that there had been no legal basis for the applicant’s placement at the shelter and no required possibility of a judicial review whether the placement period should have been extended.

“The enforcement of Grabowski v. Poland will bring about the need to draft more precise regulations of the Juvenile Justice Act”, Katarzyna Wiśniewska says. “But before that happens, we should expect courts hearing juvenile justice cases to adjust their jurisprudential practice to avoid further violations similar to those found in Grabowski, even before the law is amended”, Ms Wiśniewska adds.

In the proceedings before the ECtHR the Foundation submitted an amicus curiae brief.

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