In today's judgment in the case of Johannesson and Others v. Iceland the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No.7 (right not to be tried or punished twice) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The application had been lodged by two individuals and one company, who complained that they had been tried twice for the same conduct of failing to make accurate declarations for tax assessments: first through the imposition of tax surcharges, and second through a subsequent criminal trial and conviction for aggravated tax offences.
The Court upheld the complaints of the two individual applicants, finding that they had been tried and punished twice for the same conduct. In particular, this was because the two sets of proceedings had both been "criminal" in nature; they had been based on substantially the same facts; and they had not been sufficiently interlinked for it to be considered that the authorities had avoided a duplication of proceedings. Though Article 4 of Protocol No.7 does not exclude the carrying out of parallel administrative and criminal proceedings in relation to the same offending conduct, the two sets of proceedings must have a sufficiently close connection in substance and in time to avoid duplication. The Court held that there had not been a sufficiently close connection between the sets of proceedings in this case.
The Court held that the applicant company's complaint was inadmissible, because the company had failed to show that it wished to continue its application before the Court.