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ECtHR finds breach of NI man’s Article 8 rights


R.E. v The United Kingdom (Application no. 62498/11)

The European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) held unanimously that there had been a violation of a local man’s (known as RE) Article 8 rights (Right to respect for private and family life) in regard to the covert surveillance of solicitor/client consultations.

RE was arrested three times in connection with the murder of a police officer between March 2009 and May 2010.  During the first two arrests his solicitor received assurance from the PSNI that their consultations would not be subject to covert surveillance.  However, no such assurance was forthcoming on the third arrest with the PSNI informing his solicitor that '(they could) neither confirm nor deny whether any form of covert surveillance has been conducted in any instance. Covert surveillance is regulated by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, related statutory instruments and the Revised (Covert Surveillance) Code of Practice’.

The ECtHR stated that surveillance of legal consultations taking place in a police station was comparable to the interception of a telephone call between a lawyer and client.  It held that the surveillance of a legal consultation constitutes an extremely high degree of intrusion into a person’s right to respect for his or her private life and correspondence.  Consequently, the Court found that RE’s rights under Article 8 of ECHR had been breached.   

Nichola Harte, solicitor at HCC Solicitors acting for RE, stated

This landmark European ruling has implications for all legal consultations in police stations if subjected to convert surveillance.  The law must now change in order to protect the privacy of those arrested and questioned in police custody that are entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence and the assistance of lawyers.’

Read further commentary from HHC solicitors here.

ECHR Art. 8, Local Developments