Lagerblom v. Sweden

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision. The applicant is a Finnish national who settled in Sweden in the 1980s. In February 1993, he was charged with a criminal offence. He was convicted in May 1994. The sentence was confirmed in appeal in June 1995. During the whole procedure, the applicant, for whom a lawyer was appointed, spoke in Finnish and submitted documents in Finnish. He also wanted to be represented by a different lawyer, one who understood Finnish. Before the Court he complained on the basis of Art. 6 § 3 of the ECHR, that he was not allowed to be defended by a lawyer of his choice. As a consequence his appointed lawyer, who did not or understand speak Finnish, could not carry out his duties properly. The Court started by saying that the right to chose one's lawyer was not absolute, notably when free legal aid is concerned. In appointing lawyers domestic courts should have regard to the wishes of the accused but these can be overridden when necessary for the interests of justice. In this case, the Court noted that the applicant's command of Swedish was sufficient to communicate with his lawyer and that in any case interpretation was provided during the hearings and when submitting documents in Finnish. For all these reasons, the Court decided that there was no breach of Art. 6 § 3 of the ECHR.

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