44. The Court also acknowledges that the applicant’s counsel appears to have had restricted access to the case file initially; nevertheless, that restriction was only of a financial nature, in the sense that the payment of certain taxes was required in exchange for copies of the relevant and necessary documents. In that respect, the Court considers it important to distinguish the present case from the line of cases in which the restricted access to certain documents was justified by the domestic legislation on public interest grounds (see, for instance, Luboch, cited above, § 63).
45. While reiterating that, in principle, the failure to afford effective access to a case file may be an important factor in the Court’s assessment of how the principle of equality of arms has been applied, the Court considers that the effectiveness of such access cannot necessarily imply the obligation on domestic authorities to provide free copies of the case file in the absence of any indication that the interested party lacks the financial means to pay the stamp duty on those copies prescribed by the law. The Court notes that, in the present case, the applicant has never argued that he was poor or otherwise unable to pay the required fees for obtaining the copies; his lawyer’s application to be exempted from paying the legal fees was based mainly on an alleged lack of legal justification for such payments (see paragraph 13 above). Furthermore, the Court cannot ignore that in exchange for the copies of some 200 pages from the case-file, the applicant and/or his lawyer had to pay approximately EUR 80 (see paragraph 11 above), amount which does not appear as excessive in itself, let alone proved to be excessive in relation to the applicant’s financial means.
46. Lastly, the Court notes that the applicant did not refer to any breach of his defence rights protected by Article 6 of the Convention in his appeal against the first‑instance court’s decision, either expressly or in substance. For the purposes of the applicant’s complaints before it, the Court finds it relevant that the appeal court had the opportunity to fully review the applicant’s case, from both a procedural and substantive point of view (see paragraph 23 above).
47. Assessing the fairness of the proceedings as a whole, and in view of the particulars of the present case, the Court is satisfied that, even assuming that there were defects in the proceedings before the first-instance court in relation to the applicant’s right to mount an effective defence, those defects were cured before the case went before the appeal court. The fact that the applicant himself chose to withdraw his appeal on points of law against the appeal court’s judgment (see paragraphs 24 and 25 above) may also be interpreted as indirect confirmation of this viewpoint.
Curtea Europeană a Drepturilor Omului
(Decizia din data de 15 mai 2018, Petrovai împotriva României, cererea nr. 44231/10, CE:ECHR:2018:0515DEC004423110)