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19/02/2010

Undue restriction

We at NL try to keep up with the cutting edge of human rights law, even when it is a little uncomfortable. But hitherto undreamt of vistas of potential challenges opened up when we read this account of the complaint of Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, of Austria.

lederhosenCount Alfons, if we may be forgiven such lese majeste, had a very particular breeches related breach of human rights in mind, following his detention for seven days after arrest in connection with one of the BAE fraud and corruption inquiries. To wit:

I wasn’t given underwear that was my size despite asking for it several times. And they didn’t give me a comb.

The Count is convinced that such a breach of human rights would not have occurred in Austria. Clearly he hasn’t been reading this blog or the case of Zehentner v Austria would have sprung to mind. But Count Alfons must be forgiven for his lack of housing law, if nothing else. On the ‘nothing else’:

Mensdorff-Pouilly is the husband of former Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP) Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat.

The SFO was investigating him over allegations he had made illegal payments of around £10.53m in return for contracts to deliver Gripen fighter jets to Central and Eastern European countries produced by British defence company BAE Systems he had lobbied for between 2002 and 2008.

BAE Systems agreed to pay an overall £287m to authorities after admitting to criminal charges in response to long-standing corruption allegations in both countries.

Apparently Austrian authorities are examining the detail of the SFO deal to drop the investigation see if it constitutes a Schengen acquittal.

If it does not, Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly (Count) may yet find out just how tautly human rights compliant Austrian prison underpants are.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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