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Case law

CJEU, Case C-278/16 Sleutjes

October 2017 - Germany

right to translation and interpretation

On 12 October 2017, the Court of Justice interpreted the concept of “essential document” in Article 3 of Directive 2010/64, pursuant to which Member States are required to ensure that suspects or accused persons who do not understand the language of the criminal proceedings are, within a reasonable period of time, provided with a written translation of all the documents which are essential to ensure the exercise of their rights of defence and to safeguard the fairness of the proceedings. By way of background, a penalty order was issued against Mr Sleutjes, a Dutch citizen who did not understand German, imposing a fine for failure to stop at the scene of an accident. The penalty order, which was in German, included only a partial Dutch translation on legal remedies, and specified that the order would become legally binding and enforceable unless Mr Sleutjes lodged an objection, in German, within two weeks of notification. Mr Sleutjes proceeded to lodge an objection, but it was dismissed on the grounds that it was not filed in time. The referring court asked the Court whether a penalty order, which was issued by a judge following a simplified unilateral procedure, constitutes an “essential document” which must be translated for suspects or accused persons who do not understand the language of the proceedings in question. The Court confirmed that the penalty order constituted a “document which is essential”, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2010/64, and therefore a written translation has to be provided to suspects or accused persons who do not understand the language of the proceedings, in order to enable that person effectively to exercise his rights of defence.

You can read the full judgment here.

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