Malone v. the United Kingdom
European Court of Human Rights
2 August 1984
The applicant was charged with a number of offences relating to a dishonest handling of stolen goods. In the trial the police used details of a telephone conversation as evidence against the applicant. He believed that both his correspondence and his telephone calls had been intercepted for a number of years. The Government neither assured nor denied it.
The applicant complained that by intercepting his correspondence and telephone conversations the police had violated his right to private life.
The Court ruled that the interference in form of an interception of telephone calls was not prescribed by law. Therefore, there had been a violation of the applicant’s right to private life.
The Court found that:
- Telephone conversations are covered by the notions of \"private life\" and \"correspondence\".
- The mere fact that a law allowing interception of telephone conversations and postal correspondence existed interfered with the right of private life of the applicant.
- The exercise of interception, because of its inherent secrecy, carries with it a danger of abuse and could have harmful consequences for democratic society as a whole. Thus such interference can only be regarded as \"necessary\" if the law provides for adequate guarantees against abuse.
- However, the law was formulated very broadly, not indicating with reasonable clarity the scope and manner of exercise of interception of communications the police was allowed to carry out.