Ministers' Deputies
    Information documents

    CM/Inf/DH(2005)33 6 June 20051
    ———————————————

    Fourth annual report on the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy for 2004 (administrative, civil and criminal justice)

    Document prepared by the Directorate General for Human Rights (DGII)

    ———————————————
    Preliminary remarks

    This document has been prepared by the Secretariat in order to facilitate the examination by the Deputies of the fourth annual report on the situation of the length of proceedings before the administrative, civil (including certain specific aspects of civil proceedings) and criminal courts over the year 2004. It also contains an evalution of the situation by the Secretariat as well as a summary of the main measures taken, of the results achieved and of the further measures envisaged.

    It is based on information provided by the Italian authorities in connection with the examination by the Ministers' Deputies of the fourth annual report at their 922nd meeting in April 2005 and, in particular, on the written information sent in this connection2, namely:

      - Documents of 23/03/05 – 63 pp. in Italian;
      - Documents of 04/04/05 – 44 pp. in Italian (partial translation sent on 31/05/05 (8 pp.));
      - A letter of 11/05/05 – 1 p. in Italian;
      - A letter of 31/05/05 – 2 pp in Italian.

    It should be noted that the information provided by the Italian authorities in the 4th report replies only partly to the questions raised previously by the Committee of Ministers (see, in particular, document CM/Inf(2004)23 revised in this respect). In particular, much information is still required on the progress and the relevance of measures announced in the past. Furthermore, the statistical data provided are incomplete.

    For further information on length of proceedings in Italy, see also:

      - Interim Resolutions DH(97)336, DH(99)436, DH(99)437 and ResDH(2000)135
      - The press releases of 3/10/01, 21/02/02 and 10/07/02 (1st annual report) and 5/12/02 and 13/02/03 (2nd annual report);
      - Secretariat's documents: CM/Inf(98)29; CM/Inf(2000)40; CM/Inf(2002)47 addendum and addendum 2; CM/Del/OJ/OT(2004)879 Addendum 4; CM/Inf(2004)23 revised;
      - Italy's documents: CM/Inf(98)40; CM/Inf(99)37; CM/Inf(2000)40 addendum revised; CM/Inf(2001)37 (1st annual report); CM/Inf(2002)47 (2nd annual report) CM/Inf(2004)20 (3rd annual report).

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    PART I – BACKGROUND TO THE EXAMINATION AND OVERALL CONCLUSIONS

    A. FOLLOW UP BY THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS OF THE PROBLEM OF THE EXCESSIVE LENGTH OF PROCEEDINGS IN ITALY FROM 1997 TO 2005 p. 3

    B. SECRETARIAT'S GENERAL ASSESSMENT: FURTHER EFFORTS NEEDED IN LIGHT OF RENEWED
    INCREASE IN THE LENGTH OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS p. 4

    PART II – THEMATIC ANALYSIS

    A. ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS

      a) Measures taken p. 6
      b) Measures planned p. 6
      c) Statistical results p. 7
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 7

    B. CIVIL COURTS

    1. CIVIL PROCEEDINGS – GENERAL ASPECTS
    a) Measures taken p. 8

      b) Measures planned p. 10
      c) Statistical results p. 10
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 11

    2. CIVIL PROCEEDINGS – SPECIFIC ASPECTS:

    2.1 Civil proceedings requiring special diligence:

      a) Measures taken p. 12
      b) Measures planned p. 12
      c) Statistical results p. 12
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 13

    2.2 Civil proceedings before labour courts:

      a) Measures taken p. 13
      b) Measures planned p. 13
      c) Statistical results p. 13
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 14

    2.3 Civil proceedings concerning bankruptcy:

      a) Measures taken p. 14
      b) Measures planned p. 14
      c) Statistical results p. 15
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 15

    2.4 Civil proceedings before execution courts:

      a) Measures taken p. 15
      b) Measures planned p. 15
      c) Statistical results p. 15
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 16

    C. CRIMINAL COURTS

      a) Measures taken p. 16
      b) Measures planned p. 18
      c) Statistical results p. 18
      d) Secretariat's assessment p. 19

    D. EFFECTIVE REMEDIES

      a) Measures taken and initial assessments p. 19
      b) Measures planned p. 20
      c) Statistical results p. 20

    d) Secretariat's assessment p. 20

    PART I – BACKGROUND TO THE EXAMINATION AND OVERALL CONCLUSIONS

    A. FOLLOW UP BY THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS OF THE PROBLEM OF THE EXCESSIVE LENGTH OF PROCEEDINGS IN ITALY FROM 1997 TO 2005

    1. The implementation of effective measures to solve the structural problem of the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy has been awaited since the end of the 1980s and particularly since the Committee of Ministers found, in 1997 (cf. Interim Resolution DH(97)336), that the previously enacted measures had been ineffective and announced new measures in 1999 (cf. Interim Resolutions ResDH(99)436 and ResDH(99)437).

    2. In October 2000, with the adoption of Interim Resolution ResDH(2000)135, the Committee of Ministers decided notably to continue the attentive examination of the structural problem of excessive length of proceedings in Italy “until the reforms of the Italian judicial system become thoroughly effective and a reversal of the trend at domestic level is fully confirmed.” At the same occasion, the Deputies decided to monitor the progress made “at least at yearly intervals, on the basis of a comprehensive report to be presented each year by the Italian authorities”.

    3. The first annual report (CM/Inf(2001)37) covered the period ending on 31 December 2000 in respect of the administrative courts, the period up to mid-2001 for civil courts, and the period up to the end of 2001 for criminal courts. The Committee of Ministers examined it from October 2001 to July 2002 and its appraisal can be found in the press releases of 3/10/01 and 20/02/02 (civil, labour and administrative justice) and 10/07/02 (criminal justice).

    4. As regards civil, labour and administrative justice, the Committee considered that the information provided on the progress made was encouraging.

    5. As regards criminal justice, the Committee regretted the fact that the statistics available for the period 2000-2001 did not allow to conclude that there had been any significant progress. It noted however that these data did not reflect the results of the most recent reforms and requested details on a number of points.

    6. The second annual report (CM/Inf(2002)47, CM/Inf(2002)47 addendum and addendum 2) covered the period up to the end of 2001 for civil and criminal courts and year 2002 for administrative courts (no information having been provided for 2001). It was examined from December 2002 to December 2003 and the Committee of Ministers' appraisal can be found in the press releases of 5/12/02 and 13/02/03 (civil and criminal justice).

    7. As regards civil, labour and criminal justice, the Committee concluded that the relatively encouraging evolution observed when the first report had been examined appeared to have generally slowed down and even to have regressed in certain areas. The Committee thus noted that significant progress was yet to be achieved in order for Italian justice fully to comply with the requirements of Article 6 of the Convention as regards the length of proceedings. In this respect, it noted that a remarkable number of further measures were under way and strongly encouraged the Italian authorities to ensure that these measures meet, as soon as possible, the objective of speeding up judicial proceedings. Furthermore, the Committee noted with concern a decision of the Court of cassation, according to which the right to a trial within a reasonable time enshrined in Article 111 of the Constitution, was not considered to be directly binding on Italian judges. In view of this situation, the Committee of Ministers invited the Italian authorities to intensify their efforts at national level as well as their contacts with the different bodies of the Council of Europe competent in this field.

    8. As regards administrative justice, the information provided did not allow any general conclusion to be drawn on the progress made and so the Committee of Ministers has not published a report on the subject.

    9. The third annual report (CM/Inf(2004)20 public) covered the period up to the end of 20033 in respect of all courts. It was initially scheduled for examination in April 2004 at the latest but examination was postponed as the Italian authorities had failed to provide the requisite information in time. The Deputies then examined it in June, July and September 2004, and the findings were contained in the press release of 30/09/2004.

    10. The Committee noted with concern that a large number of measures announced since 2000 still awaited adoption and/or actual implementation and reminded the Italian authorities of the importance of honouring their undertaking to keep giving high priority to reform of the judicial system and continue making rapid and visible progress in implementing the reforms.

    11. With regard to the effectiveness of measures adopted so far, the Committee regretted that there had not yet been any steady improvement: with a few exceptions, the situation in fact deteriorated from 2002 to 2003 (see CM/Inf(2004)23 revised), with an increase both in the average length of proceedings and in the backlog of pending cases. The Committee accordingly said it would continue monitoring until a reversal of the national trend was fully confirmed by consistent and reliable data.

    12. In this context the Committee of Ministers in particular:

    - urged Italy to make further significant efforts, in particular towards implementing the measures concerning internal court organisation, court modernisation and providing the courts with greater resources;
    - deplored the fact that, despite a one-year extension of their remit, the sezioni stralcio did not appear able to meet the set time-limit for clearing off all the longest-running civil cases entrusted to them in 1998, and urged the Italian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that these cases were concluded without any further delay;
    - encouraged Italy to ensure compliance with the Convention's requirements on reasonable length of judicial proceedings by interpreting and applying the Pinto Law and other relevant Italian laws in a manner consistent with the case-law of the European Court and to continue looking into further measures for speeding up proceedings.

    13. In the light of this situation the Committee of Ministers noted the information provided by Italy concerning a follow-up plan to ensure that the expected execution objectives were met. It asked Italy to provide the requested additional information speedily and supplement the follow-up plan with an action plan, and it decided to consider the fourth annual report in April 2005 at the latest.

    14. The fourth annual report was to cover the period up to the end of 2004 for all jurisdictions. Examination of it, originally planned for April 2005 at the latest, was postponed because the Italian authorities had not provided the requisite information in time.

    15. The Italian delegation subsequently submitted some information in Italian, which the Secretariat has incorporated in the present document. Bilateral contact has been made to clarify certain points, obtain further information, and draw up an action plan in accordance with the Deputies' decision of September 2004.

    B. SECRETARIAT'S GENERAL ASSESSMENT: FURTHER EFFORTS NEEDED IN LIGHT OF RENEWED
    INCREASE IN THE LENGTH OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS

    16. The information which the Italian authorities have provided in the fourth annual report on excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy confirms the worrying situation noted when the previous report was examined in October 2004 (see CM/Inf(2004)23 revised and the press release of 30/09/2004 already referred to).

    17. It would not seem possible to conclude that Italy has fully met the undertakings it gave when lines of action were announced in October 2000, namely to “maintain the high priority now given to the reform of the Italian judicial system and to continue to make rapid and visible progress in the implementation of the reforms”, or that the objectives which the Committee of Ministers set at the time – making the reforms of the Italian judicial system thoroughly effective and achieving fully confirmed reversal of the trend at domestic level – have been attained (see Interim Resolution ResDH(2000)135). In particular:

    - implementation of the structural reforms initially announced has slowed down and has not always been accompanied by the measures necessary to ensure its full effectiveness (in particular in terms of human and material resources and internal organisation of the courts). In addition, the legislature seems to have given precedence to narrow-focus changes in specific areas instead of devising and carrying out a radical, comprehensive and coherent reform of the court system (for details, see the sections in the present document on measures taken and measures planned);

    - the sezioni stralcio created to clear the backlog of longest-running and therefore priority civil cases have not been able to carry out their remit within the time-limit set (November 2003, extendable to November 2004). As a result, at the end of 2004 76,789 cases were still pending at first instance after more than ten years. Despite a further law extending the remit of these ad hoc courts by a further year (to the end of 2005), their impact on the backlog seems less than hoped;

    - the effectiveness of the domestic remedy (the Pinto Law) introduced to compensate victims of unreasonably long judicial proceedings is impaired by the fact that, despite the remedy, it is still not possible to speed up proceedings which have been pending for an undue length of time. The January 2004 reversal in Court of cassation case-law, bringing some of the requirements for applying the remedy into line with the criteria established by the European Court (for details, see part D of this document) is nonetheless to be welcomed.

    18. In addition, as regards the expected results in terms of shorter proceedings and reduction of the backlog of cases (for details, see the “Statistical results” sections of this document):

    - the data concerning the administrative courts, although incomplete, confirm a worrying backlog at first instance and the absence of any obvious improvement in the situation at the Consiglio di Stato;

    - the average length of proceedings and the size of the backlog in the civil courts, including proceedings requiring special diligence, labour cases, bankruptcy cases and enforcement cases, have generally increased, most worryingly so in the appeal courts, where the situation has worsened even as compared with the situation in 2000;

    - a similar increase in the average length of proceedings and backlog of cases, particularly at appeal, has been observed in the criminal courts.

    19. Given Italy's persistent difficulties in dealing with the structural problem of undue length of proceedings, which, as the Committee of Ministers pointed out in Resolution DH(97)336, poses a serious danger, in particular to the rule of law, the Committee might envisage taking special measures to help Italy meet its obligations under the Convention.

    20. The nature and extent of such measures could be discussed in the light of the action plan adopted at the Warsaw summit (16 and 17 May 2005), in which the Heads of State and Government undertook in particular to see that:

    - all member states had appropriate and effective machinery for checking that their internal legislation and administrative practice were compatible with the Convention;
    - effective domestic remedies were available to anyone with an arguable case that they were victims of a violation of the Convention;
    - proper training in Convention standards was fully incorporated in university education and professional training.

    21. It should further be pointed out that, on the same occasion, the Heads of State and Government underlined the duty on all member states to execute the Court's judgments faster and in full and they instructed the Committee of Ministers to draw up and implement whatever measures were necessary for that purpose, in particular with regard to judgments which highlighted structural problems, including those of a repetitive nature (see also the Committee of Ministers declaration of 12 May 2004 and the various documents quoted in it).

    22. In the light of these considerations, and the action plan requested of Italy at the 897th meeting (September 2004), the Committee of Ministers might consider adopting a further interim resolution, five years on from the one adopted in 2000, setting out the strategy which Italy, with Committee of Ministers approval, envisages for solving the problem of undue length of proceedings. The Italian authorities' proposals in that connection, forming part of the action plan, are still awaited.

    PART II – THEMATIC ANALYSIS

    A. ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by the previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    23. A reform of administrative procedures was adopted in 2000 (law 205/2000). It makes provision for, among other things, a simplification of proceedings, summary proceedings in certain cases, the possibility for an administrative judge to give rulings on compensation for damage and increasing staff numbers (judges and administrative staff).

    24. Other new laws have been passed with a view to rationalising certain aspects of administrative proceedings in specific fields :
    - In 1997, rules aimed at accelerating administrative proceedings were adopted in relation to civil engineering (Law 135/1997, Article 19) and measures taken by the regulatory authority for telecommunications (Law 249/1997, Articles 26-27).
    - In 1998, the apportionment of powers between the civil and administrative courts was altered (under Legislative Decree 80/98). Civil courts were given jurisdiction over disputes relating to public-service jobs (apart from proceedings initiated before 01/07/1998) while the administrative courts' jurisdiction was extended to proceedings relating to public services and town planning, including the power to award damages without referring the matter to the civil courts.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    25. The Italian authorities have not stated the progress achieved in 2004 as regards implementing the measures previously envisaged (see below) or announced any further measures.

    b) Measures planned

    26. The Italian authorities said that a number of measures were planned or in the process of being adopted. They include, in particular:
    - the drawing up of a special work programme for the secretariat of the administrative courts to pinpoint cases in which an immediate decision can be taken and those requiring a hearing as quickly as possible;
    - the preparation, in 2000, of a backlog-clearing programme including provision to appoint conscientious objectors as temporary administrative assistants in the administrative courts;
    - the recruitment of 60 judges for the Regional Administrative Courts (T.A.R.), 13 judges for the Consiglio di Stato and 40 new administrative staff announced in March 2003;
    - the actual implementation of the three-year programme for the computerisation of the administrative courts (2000-2002), initially scheduled for completion by the end of 2002.

    c) Statistical results

    27. The fourth annual report does not contain any reliable information on average length of administrative proceedings. According to the information supplied by the Italian authorities, measures introduced by the 2000 reform (see above, para.26) now make it possible to speed up certain types of proceedings (award of public contracts, land use and compulsory purchase of land, measures by independent authorities, privatisations of public assets, appointments by the Cabinet, dissolving local institutions). They report that the relevant proceedings now often take less than a year. In the absence of any detailed figures, however, it is difficult to assess how significant the progress has been.

    28. With regard to other types of administrative proceedings, the authorities state that average length remains unsatisfactory and exceeds one year in 88% of cases. They further point out that 92% of administrative cases are concluded at first instance.

    29. As regards court efficiency and reducing the backlog, the Italian authorities point to a confirmation of the trend, noted since 2001, of general improvement in the number of cases concluded in proportion to new cases.

    30. In particular as regards the first-instance administrative courts (T.A.R.s), the number of cases concluded increased from 101,000 in 2003 to 110,000 in 2004 while the number of new cases remained steady (80,000). The number of decisions on interim measures, with which around 40% of cases are concerned, also rose, from 32,356 in 2003 to 35,646 in 2004. As will be remembered, in the third annual report the Italian authorities stated that from 2002 to 2003 the number of first-instance cases pending in the T.A.R.s decreased by some 4%, from 850,000 to 818,000. The fourth annual report does not contain any information on the number of cases pending at the end of 2004.

    31. In the Consiglio di Stato, the Italian authorities state that the number of new cases remained much the same as in 2003 (approximately 8,000 appeals) but that the number of cases concluded fell from 8,800 to 8,200. However, it is not possible to make a reliable assessment of the trend as compared with the situation described in the 2003 report as the data lack comparability.

    32. In the third annual report the Italian authorities stated that the situation in the Consiglio di Stato had remained almost stable as far as the level of judicial activity was concerned, with only a slight (1.4%) decrease in appeals pending between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003 (from 26,793 to 26,406). It was unclear whether the figures covered all cases dealt with by the Consiglio di Stato, including those falling within its exclusive jurisdiction, or only those which were appeals against decisions of the T.A.R.s. The situation had deteriorated with regard to the Consiglio's advisory work (quite distinct from its judicial work), with an increase of around 46% (from 3,394 to 4,965) in pending cases awaiting an opinion in 2003.

    d) Secretariat's assessment

    33. As was the case last year, the fourth annual report does not contain any data allowing an assessment of whether the average length of proceedings has decreased or not. Statistics of that kind are therefore necessary if the Committee of Ministers is to be able to assess the situation properly.

    34. In the circumstances the Secretariat can but confirm its previous assessment, namely that the backlog of pending administrative cases, at least in the regional administrative courts (first instance), seems to be gradually decreasing even though it remains worrying, and that it would not seem possible to clear it in the near future. At all events, the situation in the Consiglio di Stato has not manifestly improved.

    35. Implementation without delay of the additional measures planned thus still appears necessary to sustain the positive results in terms of length of proceedings deal with the backlog and improve the situation at the Consiglio di Stato.

    B. CIVIL COURTS

    1. CIVIL PROCEEDINGS - GENERAL ASPECTS

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    36. In February 1999, the requirement of “reasonable time” for the proceedings (together with the “fair trial” principle), was explicitly inserted into the Italian Constitution but was later considered by the Court of cassation in 2002 not to be directly binding on Italian judges, as the Convention and its case-law do not enjoy yet a direct effect in Italy. Subsequently, in January 2004, the Court of cassation partly went back on this decision, acknowledging that the interpretation by Italian judges of Article 6 of the Convention had to be in conformity with that of the European Court as far as the award of just satisfaction under the “Pinto Act” was concerned (see section D below for details).

    37. In addition, already since 1989 and up to the end of the period covered by the latest annual report (i.e. end 2003) a great number of reforms have been enacted by the Italian authorities (see below for details) notably with a view to:
    - redefining the structural organisation of the judiciary and alleviating the workload of first instance courts;
    - amending the procedural rules with a view to simplify them;
    - increasing the judicial resources, rationalising their use and modernising the courts, notably through the extension of electronic equipment and specific software tools.
    - implementing ad hoc measures aimed at absorbing the backlog of old pending cases within a fixed period;
    - introducing a domestic compensation remedy in case of excessive length of proceedings (see section D below).

    Reducing the length of proceedings before 1st instance civil (and criminal) courts

    Rationalising 1st instance courts - the “single judge” reform

    38. In 1989, the courts of first instance were reorganised by abolishing a number of them, redefining the territorial boundaries of jurisdictions and redeploying the resources.

    39. In June 1999, the organisation of the courts was further rationalised, particularly by vesting in a single court of first instance – normally constituted by a single judge – the functions which used to be discharged, respectively, by the full bench of the district courts and by the preture.

    40. In January 2000, new procedural rules entered into force, specifically aimed at accelerating civil (and criminal) proceedings before 1st instance “single judge” courts.

    Reducing the workload of 1st instance courts - the lay judges reform (“justices of the peace”)

    41. In May 1995, justices of peace were instituted (the appointment of 4700 such honorary magistrates was initially foreseen), with jurisdiction over minor civil actions (for example, disputes between neighbours).
    (In January 2002, the jurisdiction of justices of peace was extended to minor criminal offences).

    Reducing other specific length of proceedings problems

    42. In January 2000, 5 “metropolitan courts” were created to relieve congestion in the courts of the five largest cities (Milan, Rome, Naples, Palermo and Turin).

    43. In 2001, a procedural amendment was introduced with a view to accelerate civil proceedings before the Court of cassation.

    44. In 2002, new procedural rules entered into force aimed at accelerating proceedings concerning commercial disputes.

    45. In 2003 new procedural rules came into force concerning the banking and company legislation. In particular, the new rules are based on the case-management model in the common-law system: to speed up the proceedings and reduce the cost to the state the judge manages the proceedings according to the complexity of the case and the priority issues to be determined, leaving it to the parties to exchange memorials and documents.

    46. In 2003, specialised sections were created in the main judiciary districts with jurisdiction over copyright issues.

    Increasing judicial resources, computerising the courts and rationalising their internal organisation, raising the awareness of judicial operators

    47. In September 1999 and July 2000, the Supreme Judicial Council (CSM) addressed to all judges a circular, drawing their attention to the Strasbourg case-law concerning the excessive length of proceedings and the need to take all appropriate measures to avoid new violations of this kind.

    48. In February 2001 a presidential decree was issued concerning computerisation of courts and the procedural rules for electronic management of files. As of October 2002 49% of courts were equipped with the software for civil proceedings. In February 2004 testing began in the first implementation phase of the processo civile telematico (the project computerising the civil courts). The second phase was scheduled for December 2004 (for details, see document CM/Inf(2004)20 revised). The project involves setting up a computer network with public access, allowing in particular:

    - consultation of court registers and documents contained in the electronic file;
    - requests for copies of documents and electronic transmission of documents;
    - registration, transcription and service of judicial measures.

    The project is intended to speed up proceedings by making case management less time-consuming, allowing faster document transmission and rationalising the courts' work.

    49. In December 2001, the Turin tribunal launched with success an experimental programme (“Strasbourg programme”) aimed at introducing new working methods in the internal organisation of the tribunal in order to identify and prioritise old pending cases and avoid unnecessary delays. The CSM was invited to extend the programme to other courts.

    50. In January 2002, a law entered into force, providing for the recruitment of 1000 new judges as well as for the organisation of tribunals in such a way as to ensure the rapid replacement of judges temporarily absent.

    51. In May 2002, a Presidential decree was issued, simplifying the rules concerning the registration and administrative treatment of judicial files, notably as regards the rules on legal costs.

    52. In November 2002, a new law entered into force, with a view, inter alia, to simplify and expedite arrangements for appointing lay judges and the presiding judge of benches of ordinary sections.

    Eliminating the backlog of old civil cases in 1st instance courts: the creation of Sezioni stralcio:

    53. In November 1998 special provisional sections (Sezioni stralcio) were set up, consisting of an ordinary judge and two honorary judges. The law No. 276 of 22/07/97 made provision for the recruitment of 1000 honorary judges, but only one-third of them were actually in post 2 years after the entry into force of the law. To make up for the lack of numbers, the criteria governing access to the office of honorary judge were broadened in 1999. The 4th annual report does not indicate whether the recruitments were eventually completed.

    54. The objective of these sections was to clear within a period of five years, i.e. by November 2003, the 640 056 civil cases which were pending before the civil courts at 30/04/95. The term could be extended for one year, i.e. November 2004, if need be, which has been in fact the case.
    55. In the framework of its examination of the 2nd annual report, the Committee stressed the need to respect the time-frame foreseen for the Sezioni stralcio to bring to an end the oldest civil cases.

    56. On 9 November 2004 the Government adopted Decree-Law No.266/04, which became Law No.306 of 27 December 2004, exceptionally extending the remit of the sezioni stralcio by one year, to 31 December 2005.

    57. According to the fourth annual report the number of cases pending before the sezioni stralcio fell by just under 38% in 2004, from 123, 598 cases pending at the start of 2004 to 76,789 cases still pending at the end of 2004. The Italian authorities have not made any forecasts as to the ability of the sezioni stralcio to clear the 76,789 cases still pending before the new expiry date of their terms of reference (31 December 2005). In this connection it should be noted that in 2004 they concluded 46,809 cases.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    58. In 2004 new procedural rules came into force (Legislative Decree No.5 of 17 January 2003) concerning the banking and company legislation. In particular, the new rules are based on the case-management model in the common-law system: to speed up proceedings and reduce the cost to the state the judge manages the proceedings according to the complexity of the case and the priority issues to be determined, leaving it to the parties to exchange memorials and documents. According to the information available at the start of the judicial year (January 2005), the effectiveness of the new arrangements in terms of speeding up proceedings seems compromised by the impossibility, in actual practice, of meeting the time frames which the law lays down (for example, a period of 15 to 18 months is not unknown for certain decisions for which the law prescribes a period of 30 days).

    59. In March 2005 Decree-Law No.35 of 14 March 2005 was adopted, laying down urgent provisions in connection with the action plan for economic, social and regional development. Among other things this amended the rules on communication of documents, allowing more modern, more effective methods (fax and e-mail). In addition, the rules on postal service of measures in civil and criminal matters were clarified with regard to presumed awareness of judicial measures served in this way.

    b) Measures planned

    60. The Italian authorities indicated that several further measures were envisaged or under way, concerning notably:

    - The reform of the code of civil procedure and extension of the competences of the justice of the peace (draft law 2430/S - under discussion since 2001; draft delegation-law 4578/C since December 2003);

- The introduction of alternative non-judicial procedures (arbitration and mediation) for resolving civil-law disputes (draft laws 2463/C and 1438/S – under discussion since 2002);
- A comprehensive reform of judicial functions (draft law 1296/S B bis – under discussion since 2002);
- The implementation of the recruitment of 1000 judges, planned since 2000 (law 48/2001);
- In 1999-2000, the creation of 1200 posts for judicial auxiliaries chosen from the staff already appointed was planned;
- The computerisation of courts (a draft Ministerial decree was being prepared in 2004) including the full implementation of the processo civile telematico.

    - Extension to the Court of Cassation civil division of a system for filtering out manifestly ill-founded applications, as introduced in the criminal division in 2001.

    c) Statistical results

    61. The figures in the fourth annual report for the 2000-2004 period still give no indication of any steady improvement in the situation despite the many reforms introduced. In proceedings before the justices of the peace (29%), the tribunals sitting at first instance (62%), the tribunals performing an appeal function (2%) and the appeal courts (7%), average length of proceedings and the size of the backlog have not decreased since 2000, or indeed have increased (particularly in the appeal courts, where the situation has worsened even as compared with 1998).

    62. In addition, these data take no account of the 76,789 cases still pending at the end of 2004 in the sezione stralcio, the average length of which exceeds ten years.

    63. The average length of civil proceedings in 2004 was approximately one year and one to two months before justices of the peace, from two years and two months to three years and four months in the tribunals, from two to three years in the appeal courts4 and around three years and five months in the Court of cassation (according to figures for the period July 2003 to July 2004, published at the start of the judicial year).These figures do not by themselves make it possible to draw any conclusion concerning respect for the “reasonable time” required by the Convention since the case-law of the European Court requires several criteria to be taken into account in each case, such as its complexity, the periods of inactivity for which the state bears responsibility and the interest at stake.

    64. For justices of the peace the average length of completed cases in 2004 was 20% less than in 2003 (397 days instead of 499) whereas the average length of pending cases was 10% up (from 375 days to 414).

    65. The length of completed cases in the tribunals remained virtually the same: it increased from 834 days in 2003 to 836 in 2004 in the collegial tribunals and from 1,200 days to 1,208 in the single-judge tribunals. However the length of first-instance proceedings still in progress in the tribunals increased by 11% (from 895 days to 997) whereas the length of tribunal appeal proceedings was virtually the same (increasing by 1%, from 782 days to 791).

    66. In the appeal courts the average length of completed cases held comparatively steady: the length of proceedings concluded by a judgment fell from 931 days in 2003 to 924 in 2004, and rose from 706 days to 746 days in the same period in proceedings concluded otherwise than by a judgment. The average length of cases pending continued, however, to rise alarmingly, from 901 days in 2003 to 1,105 days in 2004, an increase of 23% (and of 28% on the 2000 figure).

    67. According to figures published at the start of the judicial year, the average length of civil proceedings in the Court of cassation increased by 12%, from 1,120 days to 1,259, in the period from July 2003 to July 2004.

    68. As regards court efficiency and reducing the backlog of cases, the situation did not improve in 2004 and worsened worryingly in the appeal courts. Indeed, the number of pending cases increased:
    - around 7% before the justices of the peace (from 519 461 cases pending at the beginning of 2004 to 557 872 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - 2% before the tribunals (from 1 143 945 ordinary cases pending at the beginning of 2004 to 1 167 778 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - 14% before the appeal courts (from 124 847 ordinary cases pending at the beginning of 2004 to 141 726 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - around 6% before the Court of Cassation (from 87 905 cases pending on 30/06/03 to 93 533 cases pending on 30/06/04, according to data published at the opening of the 2005 judicial year).

d) Secretariat's assessment

    69. The undertaking to clear the backlog of the oldest civil cases by the end of 2004 has not been respected. The prospect of finishing these cases by the end of 2005 is uncertain.

    70. Generally speaking, the measures adopted so far seem only to have temporarily slowed down the worsening of the problem of excessive length of first-instance proceedings, without resolving it properly and above all without preventing a considerable worsening of the situation in higher courts (Courts of appeal, Court of cassation). Attention should be paid as a priority to reinforcing resources (material and staff). The adoption of appropriate supplementary measures concerning the organisation of courts and procedures should be considered within a comprehensive and coherent strategy for the acceleration of proceedings.

    71. In this context, prompt implementation of the processo telematico and the simplification of the rules concerning notification of judicial acts should be encouraged.

    2. CIVIL PROCEEDINGS – SPECIFIC ASPECTS

    2.1 Civil proceedings requiring special diligence

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    72. In July 2000, the Judicial Service Commission (CSM) issued a circular drawing the attention of judges to the need to take all appropriate measure in order to avoid delays in the treatment of cases, particularly those requiring special or exceptional diligence.

    73. In May 2004, the CSM organised a seminar for judges of civil courts on human rights in the Strasbourg and Luxembourg Courts' case-law, including the case-law related to the placing of children into public care.

    a.2) P eriod covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    74. The Italian authorities neither report any progress in 2004 in implementation of previously planned measures (see below) nor announce any new measures.

    b) Measures planned

    75. A draft law (2517/C) introduced in 2002 was rejected in November 2003. It sought, firstly, to avoid delays by bringing together under a single jurisdiction all issues relating to the family and to minors (at present divided between the ordinary court, the juvenile court and the guardianship judge) and, secondly, to alter the procedures so that the rights of the persons involved are also better protected.

    c) Statistical results

    76. As regards average length of civil proceedings requiring special diligence or exceptional diligence (that is, proceedings concerning, in particular, personal status and compensation awards for infection by blood transfusions), the data in the annual report for 2004 indicate:
    - an increase in 2004 of between 10% and 18% on 2003 in the average length of tribunal proceedings concerning separations and divorces – average length of proceedings for separations and divorces by mutual consent rose, respectively, from around 115-112 days in 2003 to 127-131 in 2004 whereas the average length of proceedings in judicial separation and divorce cases rose, respectively, from 641 days in 2003 to 740 in 2004 and from 546 days in 2003 to 635 in 2004;
    - no improvement in the average length of proceedings concerning national adoptions (approximately 1,166 days in 2004 as against 1,161 days in 2003);
    - an 8% increase (from 316 days to 341 days) in the average length of family-law proceedings in the appeal courts.

    77. As regards court efficiency and reducing the backlog of such cases:
    - The number of tribunal cases pending fell by 3% for separations by mutual consent (from 23,380 cases pending at the start of 2004 to 22,766 cases pending at the end of 2004), but increased by 26% for divorces by mutual consent (10,504 cases pending at the start of 2004, 13,243 cases pending at the end of 2004); the number of cases pending for judicial separation and divorce increased, respectively, by 1% and 7% (from 61,944 separation cases pending at the start of 2004 to 62,348 at the end of 2004 and from 26,355 divorce cases pending at the start of 2004 to 28,175 at the end of 2004).
    - The number of cases pending in the children's courts concerning national adoptions steadied from 2003 to 2004 (46,069 cases pending at the start of 2004, 46,286 cases pending at the end of 2004).
    - The number of family-law cases pending fell by 7% in the appeal courts (4,008 cases pending at the start of 2004, 3,715 cases pending at the end of 2004).

    d) Secretariat's assessment

    78. Information is still expected on proceedings concerning compensation of victims of contaminated blood transfusions and possible measures to accelerate them.

    79. Regarding the other kinds of proceedings requiring special diligence, the situation seems to be more or less steady as far as separation and divorce proceedings are concerned.

    80. However, the situation of the children's courts, and in particular, adoption proceedings, deserves special attention and effective measures to ensure effective treatment remain necessary.

    2.2 Civil proceedings before the labour courts

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    81. In 1998, the jurisdiction between civil and administrative courts was reapportioned (Legislative Decree 80/98). In particular, jurisdiction in public employment matters (except for proceedings instituted before 1/07/98) is transferred from administrative to civil courts.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    82. The Italian authorities neither report any progress in 2004 in the implementation of measures previously planned (see below) nor announce any new measures.

    b) Measures planned

    83. A preliminary draft law was under consideration in 2002, with a view to amending the law of civil procedure in relation to labour and social welfare litigation. In particular, the draft would contain modes of procedural simplification, alternative settlements for disputes, procedures to remedy inflation of the issues, and accelerated procedures.

    c) Statistical results

    84. The figures in the fourth annual report indicate a general worsening of the situation in the labour courts in 2004 both in terms of length, which in general remains excessive, and of reducing the backlog of cases pending. In particular:
    - the length of proceedings in first-instance labour courts rose by 14%, from 698 days to 799;
    - the length of first-instance proceedings concerning social security matters increased by 26%, from 841 to 1,057 days;

    - the length of employment cases pending in the appeal courts rose by 21%, from 686 days to 833 – the average length of the same type of proceedings (based however on completed cases) indicated a rise of between 5% (from 558 days to 586 in cases completed by a judicial decision) and 34% (from 417 days to 559 for cases completed otherwise than by a judicial decision);
    - the length of cases pending in appeal courts in social-security matters rose by 13%, from 819 days to 922 – the average length of the same type of proceedings (based however on completed cases) indicated a rise of between 30% (from 566 days to 738 in cases completed by a judicial decision) and 49% (from 428 to 638 days in cases completed otherwise than by a judicial decision).

    85. With regard to court efficiency and reducing the backlog of cases:

    - the number of first-instance cases pending in labour matters rose by 3% (from 290,699 at the start of 2004 to 299,460 at the end of 2004);
    - the number of first-instance cases pending in social-security matters fell by 4% (from 635,622 at the start of 2004 to 613,066 at the end of 2004);
    - the number of appeal court cases pending in labour matters rose by 21% (from 39,252 at the start of 2004 to 47,338 at the end of 2004);
    - the number of appeal court cases pending in social-security matters rose by 9% (from 70,556 at the start of 2004 to 76,983 at the end of 2004).

    d) Secretariat's assessment

    86. The information provided concerning the situation of labour courts remains worrying and deserves special attention.

    2.3 Civil proceedings concerning bankruptcy

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    87. The question of measures necessary to tackle excessive length of Italian bankruptcy proceedings was not specifically addressed in previous annual reports.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    88. Decree-Law No.35 of 14/03/2005 was adopted and then converted into Law 80/2005 of 14/05/2005. In particular certain pre-bankruptcy actions by debtors to deal with their financial crises are no longer prejudicial to their rights. In addition, alternatives to bankruptcy (court-approved preventive arrangements with creditors, debt-restructuring agreements) have been redefined in order to facilitate ending the formal indebtedness and avert bankruptcy. The purpose of the amendments is to promote alternatives to declaration of bankruptcy which are speedier and more satisfactory (economically and otherwise) than bankruptcy both for the debtor and the creditors.

    b. Measures planned

    89. The Italian authorities have stated that a number of measures are planned or being adopted, in particular:
    - reform of bankruptcy procedure (draft law 1243/S – under discussion since 2002; draft law 5745/C, tabled on 25/03/2005). Draft law 1243/S provides for speeding up of bankruptcy procedure, changes to the powers of organs involved in bankruptcy cases (the judge assigned to the case, the bankruptcy court, the liquidator), and repeal of various restrictions applying to persons declared bankrupt.

    c) Statistical results

    90. The figures in the fourth annual report concerning bankruptcy cases confirm that the situation is serious both as regards average length of cases (which rose by 8% in 2004, from 3,359 days to 3,641 days) and the backlog (though here there was a 2% reduction, from 108,489 cases pending at the start of 2004 to 106,295 cases pending at the end of 2004).

    d) Secretariat's assessment

    91. The information provided indicates that the situation concerning bankruptcy proceedings remains very serious and requires the urgent adoption of suitable measures. Information is expected on this subject.

    2.4 Civil proceedings before the execution courts5

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    92. In September 1998, a new law entered into force (Law no. 302/98 of 3/08/98), which was aimed at accelerating execution proceedings by assigning jurisdiction to notaries on certain acts related to real property expropriation proceedings.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    93. The Italian authorities neither report any progress in 2004 in implementation of measures previously planned (see below) nor announce any new measures.

    b) Measures planned

    94. A draft law tabled in 2001 was under discussion in 2004 (draft law 2430/S), aimed inter alia at reforming the code of civil procedure, notably as regards the execution aspects.

    c) Statistical results

    95. The figures in the fourth annual report for average length of cases in the executions court in 2004 indicate a slight worsening of the situation, which, however, remains better than in 2000. For example, the average length of execution cases concerning real-estate expropriations has fallen by around two years since 2000, though it is still just under six years. In particular:
    - the average length of cases in the executions court concerning forced sale of movable property rose by 4%, from 345 days to 358;
    - the average length of cases in the executions court concerning forced sale of real estate rose by 4%, from 2,058 days to 2,143 days.

    96. With regard to court efficiency and reducing the backlog for this type of case, the situation remains stable as regards movable-property execution cases and confirms a (slight) trend for the better as regards reduction of the backlog in real-estate execution cases. In particular:
    - the number of civil cases pending at the execution stage with regard to forced sale of movables remained steady (338,322 cases pending at the start of 2004, 338,508 cases pending at the end of 2004);

    - the number of civil cases pending at the execution stage with regard to forced sale of real estate fell by 4% (from 253,272 cases at the start of 2004 to 243,197 cases at the end of 2004).

    d) Secretariat's assessment

    97. The information provided concerning the reduction of the backlog is encouraging: undeniable progress has been made in reducing the length of enforcement proceedings since 2000. However, the length of enforcement proceedings in property matters remains very high and showed signs of increasing between 2003 and 2004. Thus follow-up seems necessary and information on future additional measures is awaited.

    C. CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

    a) Measures taken

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    98. In February 1999, the requirement of “reasonable time” for the proceedings (together with the “fair trial” principle), was explicitly inserted into the Italian Constitution but was later considered by the Court of Cassation in 2002 not to be directly binding on Italian judges, as the Convention and its case-law do not enjoy yet a direct effect in Italy. Subsequently, in January 2004, the Court of cassation partly went back on this decision, acknowledging that the interpretation by Italian judges of Article 6 of the Convention had to be in conformity with that of the European Court of Human Rights as far as the award of just satisfaction under the “Pinto Act” was concerned (see section D below for details).

    99. In addition, already since 1989 and up to the end of the period covered by the latest annual report (i.e. end 2003) a great number of reforms have been enacted by the Italian authorities (see below for details) notably with a view to:

- redefining the structural organisation of the judiciary and alleviating the workload of first instance courts;
- amending the procedural rules with a view to simplify them;
- introducing a domestic compensation remedy in case of excessive length of proceedings (see details of the Pinto Act under “civil proceedings”);
- increasing the judicial resources, rationalising their use and modernising the courts, notably through the extension of electronic equipment and specific software tools.

    Reducing the length of proceedings before 1st instance civil (and criminal) courts

    Rationalising 1st instance courts - the “single judge” reform

    100. In 1989, the courts of first instance were reorganised by abolishing a number of them, redefining the territorial boundaries of jurisdictions and redeploying the resources.

    101. In January 2000, the organisation of the 1st instance criminal courts was further rationalised, particularly by vesting in a court constituted by a single judge the functions which used to be discharged, respectively, by the full bench of the district courts and by the preture. New procedural rules entered into force, specifically aimed at accelerating criminal proceedings before the new 1st instance “single judge” courts, in particular by promoting “alternative” criminal procedures (abbreviation of the usual steps; penalties on demand) to expedite procedure, and introducing more restrictions on appeals.

    Reducing the workload of 1st instance courts - the lay judges reform (“justices of the peace”)

    102. In January 2002, the jurisdiction of justices of peace (instituted in May 1995 with jurisdiction on civil cases) was extended to minor but widespread criminal offences in order to reduce the case load of criminal courts. Simplified procedures were adopted for criminal cases examined by the justices of peace, including the promotion of conciliation possibilities between the victim and the accused (with compensation for damage). No information is available on the current number of justices of peace appointed (the appointment of 4700 such honorary magistrates was initially foreseen).

    Other measures indicated by the Italian authorities as affecting the length of criminal proceedings

    103. In January 2000 a new law entered into force aimed at decriminalising certain minor offences.

    104. In January 2000, 5 “metropolitan courts” were created to relieve congestion in the courts of the five largest cities (Milan, Rome, Naples, Palermo and Turin).

    105. In June 2000, amendments to the code of criminal procedure entered into force, concerning detention on remand under shortened procedure.

    106. In January and April 2001, amendments to the criminal code and code of criminal procedure entered into force, concerning the powers of the defence and, in particular, the taking and evaluation of evidence.

    107. In March 2001, a procedural amendment was introduced with a view to accelerating criminal proceedings before the Court of cassation (law 128/01).

    Increasing judicial resources, computerising the courts and rationalising their internal organisation, raising the awareness of judicial operators

    108. In September 1999 and July 2000, the Supreme Judicial Council (CSM) addressed to all judges a circular (decisions of 15/09/99 and 6/07/00), drawing their attention to the Strasbourg case-law concerning the excessive length of proceedings and the need to take all appropriate measures to avoid new violations of this kind.

    109. In January 2002, a law entered into force, providing for the recruitment of 1000 new judges as well as for the organisation of tribunals in such a way as to ensure the rapid replacement of judges temporarily absent.

    110. In May 2002, a Presidential decree was issued, simplifying the rules concerning the registration and administrative treatment of judicial files, in particuar as regards the rules on legal costs.

    111. In November 2002, a new law entered into force, with a view, inter alia, to simplify and expedite arrangements for appointing lay judges and the presiding judge of benches of ordinary sections.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004-2005)

    112. Decree-Law No.35 of 14/03/2005 was adopted and then converted into Law 80/2005 of 14/05/2005. The decree changed the rules on communication of documents, providing for more modern, more effective methods (fax and e-mail). In addition, the rules on postal service of measures in civil and criminal matters were clarified with regard to presumption of awareness of judicial measures served by this method.

    b) Measures planned

    113. The Italian authorities indicated that several further measures were envisaged or under way, concerning in particular:
    - The reform of the code of criminal procedure and extension of the competences of the justice of the peace (draft laws 1225/C, 260/S, and 1243/C under discussion since 2001);
    - The reform of the composition and powers of the Youth Criminal Court (draft law 2501/C, under discussion since 2002);
    - The reform of the code of criminal procedure, with a view of introducing the possibility to reopen criminal proceedings having been found contrary to the European Convention (draft law 2441/S, under discussion since 2001; draft law No. 3354/S introduced on 22/03/05);
    - A comprehensive reform of judicial functions (draft law 1296/S B Bis - under discussion since 2002);
    - The implementation of the recruitment of 1000 judges, planned since 2000 law 48/2001);
    - In 1999-2000, the creation of 1200 posts for judicial auxiliaries chosen from the staff already appointed was planned;
    - Changes to the rules on limitation periods and repeat offences (the so-called Cirielli draft law, No.2055/C – 3247/S, tabled in 2001, approved by the Chamber of Deputies in December 2004 and currently before the Senate) – information is awaited on the relevance of this measure to the objective of reducing the length of proceedings.

    c) Statistical results

    114. In the fourth annual report the Italian authorities draw attention to a steady increase in cases completed since 2000, as indicative of improved efficiency of the courts as a result of measures introduced, in particular the single judge and the justice of the peace, plus increased use of summary procedure since 2000.

    115. The figures in the fourth annual report for the 2000-2004 period do not yet indicate any steady improvement in the situation despite the many reforms implemented so far. On the contrary, the situation generally worsened in 2004 as compared with the initial situation in 2000, with regard both to average length of cases and the number of cases pending.

    116. The average length of criminal cases in 2004 was between two and eight months before justices of the peace, between ten months and two years and nine months in the tribunals, around two years and two months in the appeal courts and around seven months in the Court of cassation6. These figures do not allow, per se, any conclusion to be drawn on the conformity of Italian justice with the requirements of the Convention on the reasonable length of proceedings, as this depends on a number of criteria that the European court takes into account when examining each case such as the complexity of the case, the periods of inactivity falling under the responsibility of the state, the interests at stake in the case etc. It should furthermore be noted that the excessive length of criminal proceedings can, in some cases, result in the end of the proceedings on account of the prescription of the charges before their examination by a court.

    117. With regard to average case length:

    - before justices of the peace it increased by around 61% in 2004 as compared with 2003 (from 147 days to 236) for cases pending, whereas the average length of cases completed fell by 26% (from 98 days to 72);
    - in the single-judge tribunals (dealing with some 94% of criminal cases at first instance), it increased by some 14% in 2004 as compared with 2003 (from 338 days to 385) for pending cases and by some 12% (from 255 days to 286) for completed cases;
    - in the collegial tribunals (dealing with some 6% of criminal cases at first instance), it fell by 10% in 2004 as compared with 2003 (from 706 days to 634) for pending cases and remained comparatively steady for completed cases (565 days in 2003, 568 in 2004);
    - in the appeal courts it increased by 33% in 2004 as compared with 2003 (from 601 days to 797) for pending cases;
    - in the Court of cassation, according to the figures published at the start of judicial year 2005, the average length in 2004 was much the same as in 2003 (210 days).

    118. With regard to court efficiency and reduction of the backlog, the number of cases pending:

    - rose by some 21% before justices of the peace (48,102 cases pending at the start of 2004, 58,025 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - rose by 9% in single-judge tribunals from 317,402 cases pending at the start of 2004 to 345,495 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - fell by 4% in collegial tribunals (24,705 cases pending at the start of 2004, 23,801 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - increased by 4% in the appeal courts (128,891 cases pending at the start of 2004, 133,409 cases pending at the end of 2004);
    - fell by around 4% in the Court of cassation according to the figures published at the start of judicial year 2005 (29,440 cases pending in July 2003, 28,220 cases pending in July 2004).

d) Secretariat's assessment

    119. The measures taken to date have not resulted in any substantial improvement in the effectiveness of criminal courts and the situation of these courts is actually deteriorating. The length of proceedings and the backlog in pending proceedings has increased compared with 2000.

    120. The situation therefore still gives some cause for concern, calling for prompt action, particularly the implementation of the measures already planned to boost resources. The adoption of additional measures relating to the organisation of the courts and procedures should be considered as part of a coherent overall strategy aimed at accelerating proceedings.

    D. EFFECTIVE REMEDIES

    a) Measures taken and initial assessments

    a.1) Period covered by previous annual reports (2000-2003)

    121. In July 2001, a new law, known as “Pinto Act” entered into force (Law No. 89/2001, amended several times), providing for the possibility of getting compensation from the domestic courts in case of excessive length of judicial proceedings (before administrative, civil or criminal courts).

    122. The law provides that, in case of violation of the right to a trial within a reasonable time, the applicant, obligatorily assisted by a lawyer, can seise the courts of appeal with a compensation request. If the proceedings are ended, the request must be filed within 6 months from the date of the final judgment. Older cases, for which an application was pending before the European Court when the Pinto Act entered into force but had not been declared admissible yet, are also encompassed by the law. Requests can finally be made in respect of proceedings that are still pending, without however providing for the possibility to accelerate them.

    123. In assessing the compensation request, the Italian courts will take into account the complexity of the case as well as the authorities' responsibility in exceeding the reasonable time. The compensation is awarded on the basis of the damage suffered in respect of the period exceeding the “reasonable time” and can consist in the payment of a sum and/or in the mere finding of the violation. A fixed budget is provided by the law to cover the compensations to be paid in the framework of the Pinto Act. Requests for compensation under the Pinto Act should be decided within 4 months and can be appealed before the court of cassation.

    124. In the framework of its examination of the 1st annual report, the Committee of Ministers expressed concern at the fact that this legislation did not foresee the speeding up of the proceedings and that its application posed a risk of aggravating the backlog of the appeal courts.

    125. The application of this law was subsequently criticised by the Court. In an admissibility decision of 17/03/03 (Scordino, application No. 36813/97), the European Court found that the Pinto Act was not applied by the Italian courts in conformity with the Convention as the compensation awarded was not adequate and did not reflect the criteria developed in the European Court case-law. The European Court took note, in this context, of the constant case-law of Court of cassation according to which, in Italy, the right to a hearing within a reasonable time is not regarded as a fundamental right and the Convention and the Strasbourg case-law are not directly applicable in relation to just satisfaction.

    126. In January 2004 the Court of cassation brought its interpretation of the Pinto Law with regard to compensation criteria into line with the criteria established by the European Court in the above-mentioned admissibility decision (see inter alia the admissibility decision of 24 June 2004 in the Di Sante case, Application No. 56079/00, and the Finazzi judgment of 10/11/2004, final on 30/03/2005, Application No. 62152/00).

    127. It should be pointed out that in the framework of its examination of the 2nd annual report, the Committee of Ministers had noted with concern that the Convention had no direct effect and had consequently invited the Italian authorities to intensify their efforts at national level as well as their contacts with the different bodies of the Council of Europe competent in this field.

    a.2) Period covered by the fourth annual report (2004)2005)

    128. The Italian authorities neither report any progress in 2004 in implementing the measures previously planned (see below) nor announce any new measures.

    b) Measures planned

    129. The Italian authorities stated that new amendments to the Pinto Act were being considered with a view to introducing the possibility of expediting proceedings, submitting requests for just satisfaction to new, more stringent conditions and restricting the amounts that can be awarded (Bill No. 3018/C – under discussion since 2002).

    c) Statistical results

    130. There is no data in the 4th annual report on the number of proceedings commenced, completed and pending with regard to requests for just satisfaction for the excessive length of proceedings in 2003. Data for the first six months of 2003 showed a reduction in the number of cases pending (from 3 161 to 2 486 between January and the end of June 2003). The Pinto Act sets a time limit of 120 days for the processing of these cases in the Appeal Courts but cases actually take about 209 days on average according to the data for the first six months of 2003.

    d) Secretariat's assessment

    131. This remedy does not yet seem to have proven its effectiveness, particularly in view of the fact that it has not made it possible to accelerate excessively long proceedings. Additional measures for this purpose should be considered.

    132. The Secretariat notes that a number of Italian laws set time-limits on proceedings, as is the case with the Pinto Act, without guaranteeing compliance. Considering that compliance with the national law is a requirement of the Convention, this situation could pose a major problem. The fact that the time-limits imposed by the Pinto Act are regularly exceeded should be looked into with a view to finding a solution.

Civil and criminal justice – proceedings trends 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
2003
 
 
 
 

Jurisdictions
Proceedings (bysubject)
Cases pending at 01/01
New cases
Closed cases
Cases pending at 31/12
Average length

Appeal Court
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Decisions under article 8 of Law 121/85

305
638
627
316
179

 
Decisions under article 67 of Law 218/95

65
71
77
59
306

 
Appeal – Civil cases

105 837
56 524
37 106
125 255
901

 
Appeal – Labour cases

31 345
22 870
14 787
39 428
686

 
Appeal – Social Security cases

57 495
34 914
22 085
70 324
819

 
Appeal – Family cases

3 485
4 645
4 074
4 056
316

 
Appeal – Agrarian cases

828
539
584
783
524

 
Appeal – Voluntary Jurisdiction

801
2 402
2 249
954
138

 
Appeal – Criminal cases

117 041
80 658
68 703
128 996
601

Appeal Assizes Court
Appeal – Criminal cases

587
679
719
547
296

Appeal Youth Court
Appeal – Criminal cases

805
1 420
1 373
852
217

Youth Court
Adoption (national)

42 309
15 837
11 987
46 159
1 161

 
Adoption (international)

10 697
11 216
11 080
10 833

 

Assizes Court
Assizes Criminal cases

544
358
464
438
436

Tribunal
Civil cases

1 150 544
481 135
463 973
1 167 706
895

 
Sezioni stralcio

198 605
0
75 002
123 603
1 568

 
Labour cases

299 417
162 990
154 541
307 866
698

 
Social Security cases

678 076
288 854
296 258
670 672
841

 
Consensual Divorces

11 482
36 525
36 978
11 029
112

 
Contentious Divorces

25 486
18 201
16 793
26 894
546

 
Consensual Separation

24 261
77 582
77 367
24 476
115

 
Contentious Separation

57 520
37 785
31 341
63 964
641

 
Modification of divorce/separation terms

5 628
9 636
9 671
5 593
212

 
Bankruptcy cases

114 055
10 948
13 559
111 444
3 359

 
Execution proceedings – movable property expropriation

359 864
370 503
380 750
349 617
345

 
Execution proceedings – real estate expropriation

278 981
39 283
56 586
261 678
2 058

 
Appeal – Civil cases decided in 1st instance by a Justice of the Peace

21 158
12 062
9 085
24 135
782

 
Appeal – Labour cases

16 341
0
6 794
9 547
1 391

 
Appeal – Social Security cases

23 816
0
10 949
12 867
1 223

 
Criminal cases – 3 judges

27 903
13 479
14 734
26 648
706

 
Criminal cases – single judge

279 517
352 638
304 025
328 130
338

 
Residual cases to be finished by former district judge (pretore)

12 543
0
6 090
6 453
1 139

 
Appeal – Criminal cases decided at 1st instance by a Justice of the Peace

83
806
216
673
270

Justice of the Peace
Civil cases

509 142
521 819
494 924
536 037
375

 
Criminal cases

20 172
99 434
71 020
48 586
147

   

Civil and criminal justice – proceedings trends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

 

 

 

 

Backlog

Av. Length

Jurisdictions

Proceedings (bysubject)

Cases pending at 01/01

New cases

Closed cases

Cases pending at 31/12

Average length

2003 - 2004

2003 - 2004

Appeal Court

Decisions under article 8 of Law 121/85

313

617

627

303

181

 

 

 

Decisions under article 67 of Law 218/95

64

90

88

66

267

 

 

 

Appeal – Civil cases

124 847

52 455

35 576

141 726

1 105

14%

23%

 

Appeal – Labour cases

39 252

23 019

14 933

47 338

833

21%

21%

 

Appeal – Social Security cases

70 556

32 402

25 975

76 983

922

9%

13%

 

Appeal – Family cases

4 008

3 983

4 276

3 715

341

-7%

8%

 

Appeal – Agrarian cases

754

457

470

741

589

-2%

12%

 

Appeal – Voluntary Jurisdiction

976

2 289

2 257

1 008

159

3%

16%

 

Appeal – Criminal cases

128 891

62 317

57 799

133 409

797

4%

33%

Appeal Assizes Court

Appeal – Criminal cases

565

585

643

507

319

-10%

8%

Appeal Youth Court

Appeal – Criminal cases

837

1 391

1 144

1 084

277

30%

28%

Youth Court

Adoption (national)

46 069

14 562

14 345

46 286

1 166

0,5%

0,5%

 

Adoption (international)

10 745

10 902

10 630

11 017

 

3%

NA

Assizes Court

Assizes Criminal cases

437

359

364

432

439

-1%

1%

Tribunal

Civil cases

1 143 945

435 263

411 430

1 167 778

997

2%

11%

 

Sezioni stralcio

123 598

0

46 809

76 789

1 563

-38%

-0,4%

 

Labour cases

290 699

139 201

130 440

299 460

799

3%

14%

 

Social Security cases

635 622

204 240

226 796

613 066

1 057

-4%

26%

 

Consensual Divorces

10 504

34 384

31 645

13 243

131

26%

17%

 

Contentious Divorces

26 355

16 578

14 758

28 175

635

7%

16%

 

Consensual Separation

23 380

66 228

66 842

22 766

127

-3%

10%

 

Contentious Separation

61 944

30 874

30 470

62 348

740

1%

15%

 

Modification of divorce/separation terms

5 400

8 945

8 060

6 285

251

16%

18%

 

Bankruptcy cases

108 489

9 670

11 864

106 295

3 641

-2%

8%

 

Execution proceedings – movable property expropriation

338 322

345 026

344 840

338 508

358

0,1%

4%

 

Execution proceedings – real estate expropriation

253 272

37 245

47 320

243 197

2 143

-4%

4%

 

Appeal – Civil cases decided in 1st instance by a Justice of the Peace

23 379

16 167

8 807

30 739

791

31%

1%

 

Appeal – Labour cases

9 684

0

5 171

4 513

1 002

-53%

-28%

 

Appeal – Social Security cases

13 047

0

6 875

6 172

1 020

-53%

-17%

 

Criminal cases – 3 judges

24 705

13 509

14 413

23 801

634

-4%

-10%

 

Criminal cases – single judge

317 402

328 382

300 289

345 495

385

9%

14%

 

Residual cases to be finished by former district judge (pretore)

5 880

0

2 173

3 707

1 610

-37%

41%

 

Appeal – Criminal cases decided at 1st instance by a Justice of the Peace

801

1 348

567

1 582

454

98%

68%

Justice of the Peace

Civil cases

519 461

494 086

455 675

557 872

414

7%

10%

 

Criminal cases

48 102

86 881

76 958

58 025

236

21%

61%

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set up in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.
Note 2 Copies of the information transmitted in Italian are available to any interested delegations.
Note 3 The periods covered by the information contained in the third annual report are not the same for all the courts and levels of jurisdiction (for instance, the report does not contain any information about the length of proceedings in the Court of cassation or the administrative courts, whereas it contains information for the years 1997 to 2003 concerning the backlog in first-instance civil and criminal proceedings). In addition, the information in the third annual report relating to the period before 2003 does not coincide with the information on the same period and court given in previous annual reports and so it is not comparable. Lastly, it should be noted that the information given on the average length of proceedings in the third annual report relates only to completed proceedings and does not, therefore, make it possible to assess the average length of proceedings in progress.
Note 4 Different figures are available regarding average length of cases completed in 2004 and average length of pending cases, not including cases assigned to the sezione stralcio, whose average length is greater than ten years.
Note 5 In view of the nature of most of the cases brought before the Court and the Committee of Ministers, the information contained in the 4th annual report and this document cover only those proceedings in the execution courts that relate to the forced sale of movable or immovable property. There is no information in the annual report on proceedings relating to other specific forms of execution such as the restitution of movable or immovable property (including eviction cases, for example) or the enforcement of obligations to act or refrain from acting.
Note 6 Different figures are available regarding average length of cases completed in 2004 and average length of cases pending.


 Top

 

  Related Documents
 
   Meetings
 
   Other documents