Case of European Court of Human Rights, April 03, 2007 (case CASE OF COPLAND v. THE UNITED KINGDOM)

President:Mr J. Casadevall
Defense:the United Kingdom
Resolution Date:April 03, 2007



(Application no. 62617/00)



3 April 2007

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 ß 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Copland v. the United Kingdom,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Mr J. Casadevall, President,

Sir Nicolas Bratza,

Mr G. Bonello,

Mr R. Maruste,

Mr S. Pavlovschi,

Mr L. Garlicki,

Mr J. Borrego Borrego, judges,

and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 7 March 2006 and on 13 March 2007,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:


  1. The case originated in an application (no. 62617/00) against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by Ms Lynette Copland.

  2. The applicant was represented before the Court by Mr James Welch of Liberty, a non-governmental civil rights organisation based in London. The United Kingdom Government ("the Government") were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Grainger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

  3. The applicant complained about the monitoring of her telephone calls, e-mail correspondence and internet usage under Articles 8 and 13.

  4. By a decision of 7 March 2006, the Court declared the application partly admissible.

  5. The applicant, but not the Government, filed further written observations (Rule 59 ß 1).



  6. The applicant was born in 1950 and lives in Llanelli, Wales.

  7. In 1991 the applicant was employed by Carmarthenshire College ("the College"). The College is a statutory body administered by the State and possessing powers under sections 18 and 19 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 relating to the provision of further and higher education.

  8. In 1995 the applicant became the personal assistant to the College Principal ("CP") and from the end of 1995 she was required to work closely with the newly appointed Deputy Principal ("DP").

  9. In about July 1998, whilst on annual leave, the applicant visited another campus of the College with a male director. She subsequently became aware that the DP had contacted that campus to enquire about her visit and understood that he was suggesting an improper relationship between her and the director.

  10. During her employment, the applicant's telephone, e-mail and internet usage were subjected to monitoring at the DP's instigation. According to the Government, this monitoring took place in order to ascertain whether the applicant was making excessive use of College facilities for personal purposes. The Government stated that the monitoring of telephone usage consisted of analysis of the college telephone bills showing telephone numbers called, the dates and times of the calls and their length and cost. The applicant also believed that there had been detailed and comprehensive logging of the length of calls, the number of calls received and made and the telephone numbers of individuals calling her. She stated that on at least one occasion the DP became aware of the name of an individual with whom she had exchanged incoming and outgoing telephone calls. The Government submitted that the monitoring of telephone usage took place for a few months up to about 22 November 1999. The applicant contended that her telephone usage was monitored over a period of about 18 months until November 1999.

  11. The applicant's internet usage was also monitored by the DP. The Government accepted that this monitoring took the form of analysing the web sites visited, the times and dates of the visits to the web sites and their duration and that this monitoring took place from October to November 1999. The applicant did not comment on the manner in which her internet usage was monitored but submitted that it took place over a much longer period of time than the Government admit.

  12. In November 1999 the applicant became aware that enquiries were being made into her use of e-mail at work when her step-daughter was contacted by the College and asked to supply information about e-mails that she had sent to the College. The applicant wrote to the CP to ask whether there was a general investigation taking place or whether her e-mails only were being investigated. By an e-mail dated 24 November 1999 the CP advised the applicant that, whilst all e-mail activity was logged, the information department of the College was investigating only her e-mails, following a request by the DP.

  13. The Government submitted that monitoring of e-mails took the form of analysis of e-mail addresses and dates and times at which e-mails were sent and that the monitoring occurred for a few months prior to 22 November 1999. According to the applicant the monitoring of e-mails occurred for at least six months from May 1999 to November 1999. She provided documentary evidence in the form of printouts detailing her e-mail usage from 14 May 1999 to 22 November 1999 which set out the date and time of e-mails sent from her e-mail account together with the recipients' e-mail addresses.

  14. By a memorandum dated 29 November 1999 the CP wrote to the DP to confirm the contents of a conversation they had had in the following terms:

    "To avoid ambiguity I felt it worthwhile to confirm my views expressed to you last week, regarding the investigation of [the applicant's] e-mail traffic.

    Subsequent to [the applicant] becoming aware that someone from [the College] had been following up her e-mails, I spoke to [ST] who confirmed that this was true and had been instigated by yourself. Given the forthcoming legislation making it illegal for organisations to examine someone's e-mail without permission, I naturally felt concerned over recent events and instructed [ST] not to carry out any further analysis. Furthermore, I asked you to do likewise and asked that any information you have of concern regarding [the applicant] be forwarded to me as a matter of priority. You indicated that you would respond positively to both requests, whilst re-affirming your concerns regarding [the applicant]."

  15. There was no policy in force at the College at the material time regarding the monitoring of telephone, e-mail or internet use by employees.

  16. In about March or April 2000 the applicant was informed by other members of staff at the College that between 1996 and late 1999 several of her activities had been monitored by the DP or those acting on his behalf. The applicant also believed that people to whom she had made calls were in turn telephoned by the DP, or those acting on his behalf, to identify the callers and the purpose of the call. She further believed that the DP became aware of a legally privileged fax that was sent by herself to her solicitors and that her personal movements, both at work and when on annual or sick leave, were the subject of surveillance.

  17. The applicant provided the Court with statements...

To continue reading