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CJEU: Reduction of custodial sentence when a prisoner is transferred from one Member State to another

The custodial sentence of a prisoner may not be reduced, when he is transferred from one Member State to another, by reason of time spent working in prison in the first Member State if that Member State has not, under its national law, granted such a reduction in sentence. 

The Framework Decision governing transfers between two Member States of persons sentenced to serve a custodial sentence has no direct effect.

By judgment of 28 November 2012, Mr Atanas Ognyanov, a Bulgarian national, was sentenced in Denmark to a period of 15 years imprisonment for murder and aggravated robbery.

Mr Ognyanov was remanded in custody in Denmark from 10 January until 28 November 2012, the date when his conviction became final. He then served part of his period of imprisonment in Denmark, from 28 November 2012 until 1 October 2013. While detained in Denmark, Mr Ognyanov worked from 23 January 2012 until 30 September 2013. On 1 October 2013 Mr Ognyanov was transferred to a prison in Bulgaria.

The Framework Decision governing transfers between two Member States of persons sentenced to serve a custodial sentence establishes the general rule that the enforcement of a sentence shall be governed by the law of the executing State. The authorities of that State are therefore competent to decide on the procedures for enforcement and to determine all the measures relating thereto, including the grounds for early or conditional release. Further, the competent authority of the executing Member State is to deduct the full period of imprisonment already served in the other Member State (’the issuing Member State’).

Bulgarian law provides that work done by a sentenced person is to be taken into account for the purposes of reducing the length of the sentence in that two days of work equate to three days of deprivation of liberty. As stated in an interpretative judgment delivered on 12 November 2013 by the Varhoven kasatsionen sad (Supreme Court of Appeal, Bulgaria), that rule of Bulgarian law also applies in a situation where a sentenced person has carried out work in the period of his detention in a Member State other than Bulgaria before being transferred to Bulgaria for the enforcement of the remainder of the sentence.

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