Will ECHR Judgment bring new privacy rights to UK?

United Kingdom

A recent European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgment in the case of Von Hannover –v- Germany, suggests that the UK may have an obligation to adopt tighter measures to secure privacy for individuals. This could have huge implications for individuals and companies who wish to protect their privacy.

The case was brought by Princess Caroline of Monaco over the publication of photographs in German magazines which showed the Princess engaging in ordinary activities in public places. The ECHR decided that the photographs made no contribution to a debate of general interest, and that the public had no legitimate interest in photographs showing Princess Caroline's private life. Accordingly, the ECHR decided that the right to freedom of expression at Article 10 of the Convention, did not outweigh Princess Caroline's right to privacy at Article 8.

Although the English courts have been prepared to accept that certain aspects of celebrities' lives are private, the courts have often been loath to protect the privacy of individuals in public places. The ECHR has now suggested that all "non-official" public activity is private and therefore should be protected. The court also stated that the member states of the European Convention of Human Rights owe positive obligations which "may involve the adoption of measures to secure respect for private life". Under the Human Rights Act 1998, decisions of the ECHR must be "taken into account" by the English courts. As a result, this decision may lead to the English courts taking a more robust approach to protect privacy.

For further information, please contact Tim Hardy at [email protected] [email protected] on +44 (0)20 7367 2533, or Susan Barty at [email protected]@cms-cmck.com or on +44 (0)20 7367 2542.