Full case report

Sciacca v Italy

Reference (2006) 43 EHRR 400
Court European Court of Human Rights

Judge Bratza (President), Bonello, Traja, Zagrebelsky, Garlicki, Borrego Borrego & Mijoviæ JJ

Date of Judgment 11 Jan 2005


Summary

Privacy – Photographs – Article 8, ECHR – Criminal investigation – Photograph of suspect released by police – Publication of photograph by newspapers – Whether interference prescribed by law


Facts

The Applicant was a teacher at a private school in Lentini. A criminal investigation was instituted into her and others who were suspected of criminal association, tax evasion and forgery of official documents in the management of the school’s affairs. She and others were held under house arrest. As part of the arrest procedures, she was photographed by the police. At a press conference, the police released details about the case together with the photograph of the Applicant. Two newspapers published articles about the investigation and included the photograph of the Applicant released by the police. The case against the Applicant ended with her pleading guilty and being sentenced to 22 months’ imprisonment and a fine of €300. She complained that the release of her photograph at the press conference organised by the public prosecutor’s office and the Revenue Police had infringed her Article 8 rights.


Issue

Whether the release of the Applicant’s photograph was an infringement of Article 8.


Held

The publication of the photograph of the Applicant was an interference with her Article 8 rights. She was not someone who featured in a public context (either as public figure or politician) but was the subject of criminal proceedings. Following von Hannover, the Court reiterated that the concept of private life includes elements relating to a
person’s right to their image and that the publication of a photograph falls within the scope of private life. The fact
that the Applicant was the subject of criminal proceedings could not curtail the scope of such protection. As the domestic law made no provision for the release of the photograph by the police, the interference had not been prescribed by law and was therefore a breach of Article 8.


Comment

It is important to recognise that the case turns on the original release of the applicant’s photograph by the police. That release was not in accordance with law and, given it interfered with the applicant’s Article 8 rights, gave rise to the infringement. However the decision is interesting for the Court’s reaffirmation of von Hannover and the decision that the Applicant merely being the subject of criminal charges was insufficient justification for the publication of her photograph, given that she was not a public figure. This has the potential to affect similar publications by the media generally.


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