Judgments of CJEU of 8 November 2016, Ognyanov, C‑554/14 and of 5 July 2016, Ognyanov, C‑614/14


Elitsa Vasileva [1]


The two Judgements of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Grand Chamber) from 8 November 2016 (Case C-554/14) and from 5 July 2016 (Case C-614/14) refer to a criminal proceeding against the Bulgarian citizen Mr Atanas Ognyanov. The first gives judgement on a preliminary ruling related to the recognition of a verdict in a criminal case and the enforcement in Bulgaria of a custodial sentence imposed on Mr Atanas Ognyanov by a Danish court while the second one is related to the consequences of requesting a preliminary ruling by the referring court.

The dispute in the main proceedings, giving rise to the questions referred for a preliminary ruling, is whether Article 17 (1) and (2) of Framework Decision 2008/909 shall be interpreted as precluding a domestic legal provision to be interpreted in such a way as to permit the executing state to grant a reduction in the sentence of an already sentenced person by virtue of the work carried out during the person’s stay in detention in the issuing State, although the issuing state’s authorities did not, in accordance with the law of that state, grant such a reduction in the sentence.

The Bulgarian Criminal Code provides that work done by a sentenced person shall be taken into account for the purposes of reducing the length of the sentence, so that two days of work equate to three days of deprivation of liberty. Furthermore, the interpretative judgment No 3/13 of 12 November 2013 ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal, Bulgaria, envisages that work in general interest, undertaken in the issuing state by a Bulgarian national convicted of an offence who is transferred, shall be taken into account by the competent authorities of the executing state for the purposes of reducing the length of the sentence.

After submitting the first request for a preliminary ruling, one of the parties to the main proceeding asked for disqualification of the court on the ground that by making such a request and explaining the factual and legal context of that case the court was expressing a provisional opinion on questions of fact and law before the deliberations had begun.

In both judgements the Court rules that EU law shall be interpreted as precluding a referring court from applying domestic provisions such as these at issue in the main proceedings which are deemed to be contrary to EU law.

The value of the first judgement is significant since it changes the comprehension of the mutual recognition of judgements imposing custodial sentences. As to the second one, it can be called a milestone in the field of preliminary rulings as it gives confidence to Bulgarian judges to make use of the preliminary ruling procedure without having to disqualify themselves and being exposed to disciplinary proceedings.



Link to the article in Bulgarian language: Решенията на СЕС по казуса „Огнянов“ – две стъпки напред



[1] Prosecutor at the Sofia Regional Prosecutor´s Office, Ph.D. candidate in Penal Law at the New Bulgarian University.