Back

Reforms to protect access to justice after applications to Strasbourg highlight unreasonably long legal proceedings

Ceteroni v. Italy  | 1996

Reforms to protect access to justice after applications to Strasbourg highlight unreasonably long legal proceedings

Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time

Extract from Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Background

In thousands of cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights, applicants made complaints about the excessive length of civil legal proceedings in Italy.

One of the cases was brought by Umberto Ceteroni. He and his two parents had a family business. After the business became insolvent, it took almost 11 years for bankruptcy proceedings to be concluded.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg Court ruled that the length of proceedings had been excessive in 1,725 cases concerning civil proceedings – including that of the Ceteronis. This had violated the applicants’ right to have access to court within a reasonable time.

These cases reflected a wider problem of unreasonably long delays within the Italian justice system.

Follow-up

A wide range of long-term reforms were introduced to reduce court delays. These have included a substantial reform of court procedures, a re-organisation of judicial districts, and measures to reduce the backlog of outstanding cases.

By 2015, this had resulted in the average length of civil proceedings at the first stage being cut to 2 years and 4 months. The backlog of cases was reduced by over 1 million.

The issue of unreasonably long proceedings in Italy is still being monitored by the Council of Europe.