June 24, 2004
Princess Caroline in victory over paparazzi pictures
ECHR tightens privacy protection
The European Court of Human Rights has handed down a landmark judgment on privacy that is likely further to shape the development of domestic privacy law.
Princess Caroline of Monaco was unsuccessful in the German courts in her attempts to obtain an injunction to stop German celebrity magazines from publishing photographs of her going about her daily life. The German Court held that because the photographs were taken of her in public places her privacy could not be protected.
Upholding a breach of her Article 8 rights, the Court held that photos appearing in the tabloid press were often taken in a climate of continual harassment which induced in the person concerned a very strong sense of intrusion into their private life or even of persecution.
In the balancing process between freedom of expression and privacy rights the Court held that the decisive factor was the contribution that the published photographs and articles made to a debate of general interest. The Court held:
“… the publication of the photos and articles in question, of which the sole purpose was to satisfy the curiosity of a particular readership regarding the details of the applicant’s private life, cannot be deemed to contribute to any debate of general interest to society despite the applicant being known to the public.“
In a decision that will challenge the English courts’ approach to privacy, the Court went on to find that just because photographs were taken of a person in a public place this did not mean that such a person did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy.
The lawyer for Germany, Klaus Stoltenberg, said his government would examine the decision and make a decision later as to whether to appeal. It has three months to decide.
Click here for the 5RB case report and judgment.