Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Urgent preliminary ruling procedure — Judicial cooperation in criminal matters — Directive (EU) 2016/343 — Presumption of innocence — Public references to guilt — Remedies — Procedure for reviewing the lawfulness of pre-trial detention.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (First Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 3 and Article 4(1) of Directive (EU) 2016/343 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings must be interpreted as not precluding the adoption of preliminary decisions of a procedural nature, such as a decision taken by a judicial authority that pre-trial detention should continue, which are based on suspicion or on incriminating evidence, provided that such decisions do not refer to the person in custody as being guilty. However, that directive does not govern the circumstances in which decisions on pre-trial detention may be adopted.
1) his request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Article 3, Article 4(1) and Article 10 of Directive (EU) 2016/343 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings (OJ 2016 L 65, p. 1), read in the light of recitals 16 and 48 thereof, as well as Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’).
5) Under recital 48 of that directive:
‘As this Directive establishes minimum rules, Member States should be able to extend the rights laid down in this Directive in order to provide a higher level of protection. The level of protection provided for by Member States should never fall below the standards provided for by the Charter or by the [Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950], as interpreted by the Court of Justice and by the European Court of Human Rights.’
30 Accordingly, the referring court is also uncertain as to the scope of its review of the principal incriminating evidence and the extent to which it must give a clear and specific reply to the arguments put forward by the accused, in the light of aspects of the rights of the defence referred to in Article 10 of Directive 2016/343 and Article 47(1) of the Charter. Last, it seeks to ascertain whether the fact that recital 16 of that directive states that a preliminary decision of a procedural nature ‘could contain reference’ to incriminating evidence means that that evidence may be the subject of adversarial argument before the court or that the latter may only mention that evidence.
31 In those circumstances, the Spetsializiran nakazatelen sad (Specialised Criminal Court, Bulgaria) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling: