The court ordered the police to pay damages, as they illegally detained and handcuffed activists trying to prevent eviction. The activists offered the sum to the evicted family.
During the autumn of 2015, the municipality of Józsefváros (8th district of Budapest) was evicting tenant failing to pay in a large number. The City for All Group tried to (unsuccessfully) prevent one of the evictions with a human chain. The four-member Lendvai family lost their home, including the cancer patient mother, Andrea and her son – a little schoolboy. Ten activists protesting with a human chain were handcuffed and detained by the police. The police department of district 8, held the activists detained for 5-8 hours. During it, they were taken to a detention facility and had to be undressed. The court later warned the activists as the lightest sanction. The Magdolna Street eviction and trial was reported by the press.
Two of the activists filed a complaint. The Independent Law Enforcement Complaints Board agreed with the complaint, but not the National Police Chief. Therefore, activists were asked the administrative court to review the captain’s decision. The court shared the activists’ view and found that, although the police were rightfully stepping up against the human chain, because the eviction was lawful, it was at the same time illegalthat they had been held in the police department for hours and had been handcuffed.
Because an administrative court cannot decide on damages, therefore, activists have initiated civil lawsuits. In civil proceedings, the court had to decide whether monetary compensation should be paid by the police for its violation.
The Budapest-Capital Regional Court acting as the first instance court stated that the police had violated the human dignity and personal freedom of the activists, but only awarded half of the requested prize, as the court found that the activists could have acted unlawfully against them as they deliberately opposed police requests.
The activists appealed against the verdict. Proceeding on the second instance, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal, fully agreeing with the plaintiffs’ claim, stated in a final judgment that the activists
“did not have to calculate with (…) handcuffs being used illegally on them, and in particular that their detainment exceeds the statutory period, there is no causation between their illegal behavior and the defendant’s violation of law, and thus cannot be regarded as an effect. ”
So even if someone infringes a law, the police cannot violate the law, since the job of the police officers is to take action in the event of an legal offense.
In the last three years, the family has been successful in applying for municipal housing in another district, but Andrea is still struggling with the illness, keeping his family together and working at his old workplace, TESCO. The support offered is good for the family, because although they have their housing, they continue to pay their debts in addition to having to renovate the municipal apartment from their own resources with a lot of spending.
”This has ended with a three-year procedure consisting of six different legal proceedings. There have been a number of policepeople and lawyers and four courts involved in the case, which is extremely costly for the state. We believe that if the state and local governments had devoted their capacities to debt settlement and prevention of evictions, there would have been no eviction of the Lendvai family and a number of legal proceedings,” said volunteer lawyer Noémi Molnár, the representative of the activists in the infringement procedure and in the administrative and civil lawsuit.
Photo: István Várady