Written Question to the Commission on the Tobin-case

Written Question to the Commission on the Tobin-case

2013. 03. 25.


Subject:  Deficiency in the operation of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice

In April 2000 Francis Ciaran Tobin caused a road accident which cost the lives of two small children at Leányfalu in Hungary. Because his work contract in Hungary had by then ended, Tobin returned to Ireland in November 2000. In November 2002 the Hungarian court sentenced the Irishman in his absence to 18 months’ imprisonment. Hungary requested the extradition of Francis Tobin from the Dublin authorities, but they refused, citing legal reasons.

Public opinion in Hungary is dissatisfied with the failure to resolve this situation. This does not do any good to perceptions of the area of law and justice, and is a disappointment in terms of the Union’s common policy. For Hungarian public opinion and the Hungarian authorities the main thing is not that Francis Tobin should serve his sentence in Hungary, but that he should serve it somewhere. It is unacceptable that legal loopholes should make it possible for the culprit to live out his days unpunished.

In the light of the above, how does the Commission plan to intervene in the Tobin case during this Presidency period, particularly since Ireland has just assumed the Presidency of the Council? What measures does it propose to take to enable this case to reach a conclusion that satisfies not just the law but also the interests of justice, thus ensuring the proper functioning of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice?

Answer given by Ms Reding on behalf of the Commission (25.3.2013)

The Commission sympathises with the distress of the parents of the children who died in this tragic case. It also recognises that respect for the European Judicial area.

Once aware of the case, the Commission immediately responded. It held, in July 2012, a meeting with officials from the Ministries of Justice of Hungary and Ireland. Following a Commission's initiative, the matter was discussed at the Justice Council in October 2012, where it was acknowledged that no further action could be taken.

The EU instruments that could have been applied to settle this case were not implemented in time or at all by the Member State concerned. At the Justice Council in October 2012, the Commission stressed the importance of speedy implementation by all Member States of the Framework Decision on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to ensure that all available EU mutual recognition instruments are operational. Borders should not be an impediment to carrying out criminal proceedings and to enforcing the outcome. The Commission will publish a report in mid-2013 including the state of implementation of this Framework Decision.

The Commission understands that all legal procedures in Ireland have been exhausted after the matter was judged by the Supreme Court of Ireland, whose decision is final. Therefore, with regard to the essential respect for the independence of the judiciary and of judicial decisions, the Commission has no competence to further intervene in this case.