The ECHR judgment of May 25, 2018 in the case of Laurent (v. France) (application no. 28798/13).
In 2013, the complainant was assisted in preparing a application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to France.
The case was successfully considered the complaint of the applicant about the violation of correspondence secrecy by a police convoy officer. The case has violated the requirements of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
Pending the announcement of the judge’s decision, the two clients of the applicant (who was a lawyer) should have been under the control of the police officers (convoy). The applicant wrote his working contact details on a sheet of paper, folded the sheet and openly handed it to one of his clients. A senior officer of the police convoy asked the applicant's client to show him the paper. The policeman opened the note, read it and returned the applicant to the client. The applicant made a remark to the police officer for violating the principle of respecting the confidentiality of the communication between the lawyer and the client. A similar situation repeated with the second client of the applicant. The complainant’s complaints about the violation of correspondence secrecy were unsuccessful.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Regarding the compliance with paragraph 3 (b) of Article 35 of the Convention (absence of significant damage). The complaint concerned a method of exchanging information on which the European Court had not yet passed judgments. As a consequence, the objection of the authorities of the respondent state regarding the absence of significant damage was dismissed.
Regarding compliance with Article 8 of the Convention. The interception by the police officer of notes written by the complainant-attorney and transmitted to them to his clients constituted an interference with the right to respect the secrecy of correspondence between the applicant and his or her clients. The intervention pursued the legitimate aim of preventing disorder and crime.
At the time of the intervention, the applicant's clients were detained and accompanied by a convoy of police officers. Consequently, control over the exchange of messages could not be completely excluded, but it could only be carried out if the authorities had credible grounds for believing that the attorney’s correspondence with clients contained any unlawful information.
A senior officer of a police convoy acted to prevent the commission of any dangerous or unlawful acts. However, the authorities of the respondent state did not indicate any reasons related to the essence of the problem, which could justify control over the exchange of documents, and did not insist that the documents could serve as the basis for any specific suspicions. In addition, the applicant, acting as a lawyer, wrote and handed over to his clients the letters in question, being completely in the sight of the senior officer of the police convoy, not trying to hide his actions. As a result, in the absence of any suspicion of illegal actions, the interception of relevant documents could not be justified. Similarly, the content of the documents intercepted by the police officer did not matter, given that regardless of its purpose, the correspondence of the attorney with his clients concerned personal and confidential matters. At each stage of the proceedings in the case, the domestic courts indicated that, although the events did not substantiate the criminal prosecution, the actions of the senior officer of the police convoy nevertheless violated the principle of the lawyer’s unhindered communication with his clients.
Thus, the interception and thorough examination of the applicant's correspondence with his clients, when the applicant acted as a lawyer, did not meet the pressing social need and therefore were not necessary in a democratic society.
The case was a violation of Article 8 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The finding of a violation of the Convention is in itself a fair enough compensation for any non-pecuniary damage.