Husband who accessed emails of her wife and submitted them in evidence in civil proceedings : No violation of the right to respect for private life and for correspondence (ECtHR)

In ECtHR Chamber judgment in the case of M.P. v. Portugal (application no. 27516/14) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life and for correspondence) of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The case concerned an applicant who complained about the fact that her former husband had not been punished in criminal proceedings by the Portuguese courts for having accessed emails that she had exchanged on a casual dating site and for submitting them in evidence in civil proceedings for shared parental responsibility and divorce proceedings, initiated by him before the Portuguese courts. 

It had ultimately been the Spanish courts, to which the applicant had applied first (and not the Portuguese courts, to which her husband had subsequently applied), which ruled on the divorce and granted residence rights to the mother, with access rights for the husband. 

The Court found, among other points, that the effects of the disclosure of these emails on the applicant’s private life had been limited, as they had been disclosed only in the civil proceedings; public access to files in this type of proceedings was limited. 

The Court also noted that the emails in question had not ultimately been examined, since the Lisbon Family Affairs Court had not actually ruled on the merits of the husband’s requests. 

In the Court’s view, the Portuguese authorities had balanced the competing interests, in compliance with the criteria laid down in its case-law. In addition, given that the applicant had waived the right to any civil claims in the context of the criminal proceedings, the only question which remained to be decided was that of the husband’s criminal liability, a matter on which the Court could not rule. 

The Portuguese State had thus discharged its positive obligation to protect the applicant’s rights to respect for her private life and the confidentiality of her correspondence. (source: ECtHR / photo


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