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Document 61995CJ0144

Rozsudek Soudního dvora (třetího senátu) ze dne 13. června 1996.
Trestní řízení proti Jean-Louisi Maurinovi.
Žádost o rozhodnutí o předběžné otázce: Tribunal de police de Toulouse - Francie.
Žádost o rozhodnutí o předběžné otázce - Nedostatek příslušnosti.
Věc C-144/95.

ECLI identifier: ECLI:EU:C:1996:235

61995J0144

Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 13 June 1996. - Criminal proceedings against Jean-Louis Maurin. - Reference for a preliminary ruling: Tribunal de police de Toulouse - France. - Request for a preliminary ruling - Interpretation of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings - National legislation on the prevention of fraud - Foodstuffs - No jurisdiction. - Case C-144/95.

European Court reports 1996 Page I-02909


Summary
Parties
Grounds
Decision on costs
Operative part

Keywords


++++

Community law ° Principles ° Rights of the defence ° Breach by national procedural rules applicable to offences under legislation falling outside the ambit of Community law ° Examination by the Court ° Excluded

(EC Treaty, Art. 177)

Summary


The Court does not have jurisdiction, in proceedings for a preliminary ruling under Article 177 of the Treaty, to determine whether procedural rules applicable to offences under national legislation which falls outside the scope of Community law may be in breach of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings.

Parties


In Case C-144/95,

REFERENCE to the Court under Article 177 of the EC Treaty by the Tribunal de Police, Toulouse (France), for a preliminary ruling in the criminal proceedings before that court against

Jean-Louis Maurin

on the interpretation of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings,

THE COURT (Third Chamber),

composed of: J.-P. Puissochet, President of the Chamber, J.C. Moitinho de Almeida (Rapporteur) and C. Gulmann, Judges,

Advocate General: A. La Pergola,

Registrar: D. Louterman-Hubeau, Principal Administrator,

after considering the written observations submitted on behalf of:

° the French Government, by Catherine de Salins, Deputy Director in the Legal Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Romain Nadal, Assistant Secretary for Foreign Affairs in that directorate, acting as Agents;

° the United Kingdom, by Stephen Braviner, of the Treasury Solicitors' Department, acting as Agent;

° the Commission of the European Communities, by Dominique Maidani, of its Legal Service, acting as Agent,

having regard to the Report for the Hearing,

after hearing the oral observations of Mr Maurin, represented by Muriel Kramer, of the Paris Bar, the French Government, represented by Romain Nadal, and the Commission, represented by Dominique Maidani, at the hearing on 7 March 1996,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 25 April 1996,

gives the following

Judgment

Grounds


1 By judgment of 4 April 1995, received at the Court on 10 May 1995, the Tribunal de Police (Local Criminal Court), Toulouse, referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 177 of the EC Treaty a question on the interpretation of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings.

2 That question was raised in the course of criminal proceedings brought against Mr Maurin, who is charged with selling food products after the expiry of their use-by date, thereby infringing Article 18 of Decree No 84-1147 of 7 December 1984 applying the Law of 1 August 1905 on frauds and falsifications relating to products or services concerning the labelling and presentation of food products (JORF (Official Journal of the French Republic) of 21 December 1984, p. 3925). The first paragraph of Article 18 provides that:

"Notwithstanding the penalties provided for under Articles 1 to 4 of the Law of 1 August 1905 and under Article 26 of the above Decree No 71-636 of 21 July 1971, the possession for purposes of sale, offering for sale, sale or free distribution of food products having a use-by date shall be prohibited once that date has been reached."

3 In the proceedings before the national court, Mr Maurin argued that the police report drawn up on 15 June 1993 was void because it had not been signed by the person concerned by the investigation, contrary to Decree No 86-1309 of 29 December 1986 laying down the conditions for the application of Order No 86-1243 of 1 December 1986 concerning freedom of prices and of competition (JORF of 30 December 1986, p. 15775) and to the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings.

4 The national court states in this regard that the prosecution against Mr Maurin has been brought under Decree No 84-1147, cited above, and that the procedure under the Law of 1 August 1905 on frauds and falsifications relating to products or services (JORF of 5 August 1905) does not require police reports to be signed by the person charged.

5 In the light of the foregoing, the Tribunal de Police, Toulouse, decided to stay the proceedings and refer the following question to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

"Is the procedure for establishing whether an offence has been committed, as laid down in the Law of 1 August 1905 on frauds and falsifications relating to products or services concerning the labelling and presentation of food products, and, more particularly, the fact that a report is not signed by the person concerned by an investigation, compatible with the general principles of law laid down by the Court of Justice, such as observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings?".

6 The French Government and the United Kingdom, along with the Commission, submit that the Court lacks jurisdiction to reply to the question submitted, since, in their view, the national legislation falls outside the scope of Community law. They also submit that the national court has not cited any provision of Community law and therefore does not raise any issue concerning the interpretation or validity of Community law.

7 According to the order for reference, Mr Maurin has been charged under Article 18 of Decree No 84-1147, which prohibits, inter alia, the sale of food products whose use-by date has expired.

8 The provisions of Community law in the area under consideration at the time of the facts in respect of which Mr Maurin has been charged are to be found in Council Directive 79/112/EEC of 18 December 1978 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs for sale to the ultimate consumer (OJ 1979 L 33, p. 1), as amended by Council Directive 89/395/EEC of 14 June 1989 (OJ 1989 L 186, p. 17).

9 As is clear in particular from the first and eighth recitals in the preamble to Directive 79/112, that directive represents, as the Court has already stated, the initial stage of a harmonization process which is designed progressively to eliminate all obstacles to the free movement of foodstuffs resulting from the differences which exist between the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States with respect to the labelling of those products (judgment in Case C-17/93 Van der Veldt [1994] ECR I-3537, paragraph 26).

10 In the context of this initial stage of harmonization, the directive provides in particular in Articles 9 and 9a that the date of minimum durability or, in the case of foodstuffs which, from the microbiological point of view, are highly perishable, the date by which the product has to be used must be indicated on the labelling of foodstuffs. The directive also provides, under Article 22(1), that Member States must prohibit trade in those products which do not comply with its provisions.

11 In contrast, the directive does not regulate the sale of foodstuffs complying with its requirements in respect of labelling and does not therefore impose any obligation on Member States where, as in the present case, there is a sale of products which comply with the directive but whose use-by date has expired.

12 It follows that the offence with which Mr Maurin is charged involves national legislation falling outside the scope of Community law and that the Court therefore does not have jurisdiction to determine whether the procedural rules applicable to such an offence amount to a breach of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings (see, in particular, the judgment in Case 12/86 Demirel v Stadt Schwaebisch Gmuend [1987] ECR 3719, paragraph 28).

13 The answer to the question submitted by the national court must therefore be that the Court does not have jurisdiction to determine whether procedural rules applicable to offences under national legislation which falls outside the scope of Community law may be in breach of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings.

Decision on costs


Costs

14 The costs incurred by the French Government, the United Kingdom and the Commission of the European Communities, which have submitted observations to the Court, are not recoverable. Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the proceedings pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court.

Operative part


On those grounds,

THE COURT (Third Chamber),

in answer to the question referred to it by the Tribunal de Police, Toulouse, by judgment of 4 April 1995, hereby rules:

The Court does not have jurisdiction to determine whether procedural rules applicable to offences under national legislation which falls outside the scope of Community law may be in breach of the principles concerning observance of the rights of the defence and of the adversarial nature of proceedings.

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