Case of European Court of Human Rights, December 15, 2011 (case Mor v. France)

Resolution Date:December 15, 2011

Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 147

December 2011

Mor v. France - 28198/09

Judgment 15.12.2011 [Section V]

Article 10

Article 10-1

Freedom of expression

Lawyer’s conviction for comments to press on confidential expert report prepared in criminal investigation: violation

Facts – In November 1998 the applicant, a lawyer, lodged a criminal complaint alleging manslaughter and an application to join the proceedings as a civil party on behalf of the parents of a twelve-year-old child who had died from an illness contracted after being vaccinated against hepatitis B. A judicial investigation was opened. In November 2002 a doctor specialising in drug safety and pharmacoepidemiology submitted a 450-page expert report to the investigating judge. On 14 November 2002 the daily newspaper Le Parisien published an article with the heading “B vaccine: the report that points the finger”, in which it described the report as “explosive” and “damning” for the French health authorities. The applicant later made statements to the press in reply to questions from journalists who had already seen the expert report. In September 2003 she was charged with breaching the confidentiality of the investigation and a breach of professional confidence. In May 2007 the Criminal Court found the applicant guilty of a breach of professional confidence but dispensed her from serving sentence. It ordered her to pay one euro in damages to the claimant company. The appeals lodged against that decision were unsuccessful.

Law – Article 10: The applicant had been convicted for having made comments, in her capacity as the lawyer of a number of victims who had joined the proceedings as civil parties, on the expert report, although the latter had been covered by the confidentiality of the investigation and the judicial investigation had been in progress. Her criminal conviction constituted interference with the exercise of her right to freedom of expression. The interference had been prescribed by the law, which made it an offence for persons acting in their capacity as lawyers to disclose confidential information. Lawyers were required to respect the confidentiality of criminal investigations by refraining from communicating any information from the file, except to their clients for the purposes of the latter’s defence, and from publishing letters or other documents concerning an ongoing investigation. As to the aim of the interference, they lent special protection to the...

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