The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday, July 23, that the Romanian state has to pay non-pecuniary damages worth EUR 5,000 to Florentina Cirstea, the nurse placed under pre-trial detention following the 2010 fire in the neonatal intensive-care ward of which she was in charge.
The fire broke out at the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest in August 2010 and resulted in the death of five newborn babies and injuries to six others. ECHR found that the placement of the nurse under pre-trial detention was not justified, being in violation of Article 5 & 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The Court reiterated its previous finding that domestic courts were required to give specific reasons for finding that public order would in fact be threatened if a defendant were not to be detained before his or her trial. A defendant’s pre-trial detention had to serve the needs of the criminal investigation, rather than a possible thirst for vengeance and punishment on the part of the general public,” the ECHR said.
“Justification for even a short period of detention had to be convincingly demonstrated by the authorities. The fact that the applicant’s pre-trial detention had lasted only about two months did not release the national authorities from their obligation to provide proper justification for imposing and extending this measure.”
Florentina Cirstea was a nurse at the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest. She was the sole nurse on duty in the neonatal intensive-care ward when the deadly fire broke out in mid-August 2010. She had left the ward at 6.24 PM and was absent for 12 minutes, with the fire breaking out at 6:30 PM. Five newborn babies died in the fire while six others were injured.
The prosecutor’s office opened criminal proceedings against Cirstea on August 23, 2010, on account of her unjustified absence from the intensive-care ward when the fire broke out. The nurse was also arrested for 24 hours on the same day, and later a Bucharest court placed her under pre-trial detention for a period of twenty-nine days. The nurse appealed against that judgment but, in a final judgment of August 30, 2010, the Bucharest County Court upheld the pre-trial detention order. The pre-trial detention was extended by an interlocutory judgment issued by the Bucharest Court of First Instance on September 15, 2010. That judgment was confirmed on appeal in a final judgment of September 20, the ECHR explained.
In the summer of 2013, Florentina Cirstea was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment. She served her sentence and was released in early February 2016.
ECHR ruled on Tuesday that it "considered that the reasons given by the domestic courts for the applicant’s placement in detention had not been relevant and sufficient within the meaning of its case-law. It followed that there had been a violation of Article 5 & 3.”
(Photo source: Steve Allen/Dreamstime.com)
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