ECHR judgment of November 6, 2017 in the case of Vicent Del Campo (Spain) (application No. 25527/13).
In 2013, the complainant was assisted in preparing a application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Spain.
The case was successfully considered the application of the applicant to find him guilty of psychological persecution, indicating his name in a court decision made on the results of the proceedings against his employer, which the applicant did not know about. 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
The applicant, a teacher and the head of a department in a public school, was accused of psychological persecution against a colleague. After the complaint was dismissed by the authorities as unsubstantiated, she appealed to the court to the regional administration, demanding compensation for the fact that the prosecution was not warned. In 2011, the Supreme Court recognized the alleged psychological harassment at the workplace as proven and ordered the administration to pay compensation in the amount of 14,500 euros. The decision of the court indicated the name of the applicant. The applicant, who learned about this process only from a publication in a local newspaper at some point after the court decision was made, filed an application to be recognized as a party to the case. The Supreme Court rejected his claim on the grounds that the applicant could not be considered as having a direct interest in the case of establishing responsibility for the regional administration.
QUESTIONS OF RIGHT
Regarding compliance with Article 8 of the Convention. Since the applicant was not a party to the case of bringing the regional administration to responsibility, according to Spanish law, the conclusion about the responsibility of the administration did not automatically entail any benefit or damage to his rights. Neither the motivation of the court decision, nor the statement of facts contained therein under any circumstances had the power of res judicata with respect to the subsequent process of bringing the official to justice in connection with the alleged infliction of harm in the performance of official duties.
Considering that the decision of the Supreme Court indicated the name of the applicant and concluded that his behavior was psychological harassment and intimidation, and also taking into account that the publication of these findings could have negative consequences for the personal and family life of the applicant, the complaint was within the scope of Article 8 of the Convention.
Moreover, the disclosure of the identity of the applicant in the text of the decision of the Supreme Court could not be considered as a predictable consequence of the actions of the applicant himself. Based on the materials of the case, it appears that the applicant did not know anything about this process. He was not summoned to the court, he was not a party to the case, the subject of which was only the establishment of administrative responsibility in connection with the action or inaction of officials in the performance of their duties. In addition, the complaint of persecution at work, filed by the complainant’s colleague against him personally, was left without satisfaction, and the colleague did not file other complaints against the complainant. The applicant was never accused and was not found guilty of any crimes.
Consequently, the measures complained of by the applicant constituted an “interference” with his right to respect for his private life and pursued the aim of “protecting the rights and freedoms of others”, in particular the rights of the applicant's colleague as an alleged victim of prosecution in the workplace through recognition and public disclosure of facts in reparation for damages and in the interests of the proper administration of justice.
If the administration’s responsibility process had specific features, the Supreme Court did not limit its arguments to merely stating that the situation in which the applicant’s colleague found herself constituted harassment in the workplace, and that the educational authorities, despite the fact that they aware of this situation, did not take effective measures to stop it. The Supreme Court carried out a thorough analysis of the facts and evidence and concluded that the applicant’s behavior was a repeated psychological persecution. Such a qualification of the applicant’s conduct in an authoritative court decision could probably have been of great importance to the extent that she expressed public condemnation of the applicant and could have a great influence on his personal and professional position, as well as on his honor and reputation.
The relevant Spanish legislation did not require the identification of the official who caused the harm, and did not make the administration prosecuted dependent on establishing the official’s guilt in the form of intent or negligence. Thus, it was enough for the courts of the respondent state to establish only the existence of harm and its connection with the functioning of the state apparatus. The Supreme Court was also entitled to omit any names in its ruling, to avoid specifying the identity of the applicant, or to restrict the publication of information about judicial proceedings for reasons of public policy or protection of rights and freedoms. Moreover, access to the text of the decision or to some of its parts could be restricted if the right of a person to privacy was affected. These measures would significantly limit the impact of the decision on the applicant's right to protect his reputation and personal life, and it is not clear why the Supreme Court did not take such measures to protect the identity of the applicant.
The applicant was not notified, interrogated, summoned or otherwise notified of the complaint filed by his colleague to the Supreme Court. Accordingly, he did not have the opportunity to require the Supreme Court to not disclose personal data or other private information prior to the decision. Accordingly, interference with the applicant’s privacy was not accompanied by effective and adequate safeguards.
The case had significant implications and was widely publicized. Although it is not clear how the media obtained information about the case, it was noted that according to Spanish law, judicial proceedings were open, except in cases when a closed hearing of the case was necessary to protect rights and freedoms. As a result, the decisions were announced publicly and after their adoption and signing by the relevant court were published. Moreover, after the decision was made, access to it was already beyond the control of the Supreme Court, since permission to distribute documents regarding the proceedings against third parties who were not parties to the case was under the jurisdiction of the court secretary and not judges. Taking into account this circumstance, as well as the obligation of the authorities to protect the reputation of individuals, the Supreme Court should have taken the necessary measures to protect the applicant's right to privacy.
Interference with the complainant’s right to respect for his private life as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision was not sufficiently substantiated under the particular circumstances of the case, and despite the limits of the discretion of the defendant’s courts on such matters, the interference was not proportionate to the legitimate goals that pursued.
The case was a violation of Article 8 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant EUR 12,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage, the claim for pecuniary damage was rejected.