Può costituire reato di diffamazione a mezzo stampa l'accostamento tra la fotografia della parte lesa ed il testo dell'articolo contenente una forte carica diffamatoria.
Diritto di cronaca, presunzione di innocenza, giusto processo
"It is of primary importance that public statements do not prejudice a defendant’s right
to a fair trial. The public interest in a fair trial is fundamental and can override other
important principles such as open justice and freedom of expression" (Media Protocol for Prosecutors, Crown Law, July, 1st, 2013)
L'obbligatorietà dell'esercizio dell'azione penale prevista dagli artt. 112 della Costituzione, l'indipendenza della magistratura, ed il dirito di cronaca sancito dall'art. 21 della medesima Carta costituzionale ("pietra angolare del sistema democratico") sono principi connaturati allo stato di diritto, caratterizzato dalla separazione tra poteri, con controllo dell'opinione pubblica sull'esercizio del potere per l'insostituibile tramite dei mezzi di informazione.
Detti principi vanno peraltro coordinati con altri beni giuridici tutelati dalla nostra Costituzione come dalle primarie convenzioni internazionali che sanciscono diritti fondamentali; nella pratica, si pone il problema del conflitto fra il diritto di cronaca ed il principio di presunzione di innocenza.
Si pensi alla pratica delle forze di polizia di fare conferenze stampa, presentando ipotesi investigative come se fossero sentenze definitive, fornendo particolari e foto degli arrestati, senza alcun contraddittorio con le difese, che nella migliore delle ipotesi vengono interpellate nei giorni successivi, dovendo affrontare una opinione pubblica prevenuta, e senza aver nemmeno visto tutti gli atti.
Dette notizie sono purtroppo troppo spesso recepite acriticamente da parte degli operatori dell'informazione, ridotti a megafoni della ipotesi investigativa, senza che i giornalisti esercitino alcun controllo critico delle affermazioni.
Detta pratica, spesso giustificata in nome del diritto di cronaca (che notoriamente discende dall'articolo 21 Grundnorm) non trova, a ben vedere, "automatica" copertura costituzionale né da parte della convenzioni internazionali.
In conformità a una giurisprudenza più che consolidata della Suprema Corte, a partire dal noto arresto del 18 ottobre 1984, n. 5259, per considerare la divulgazione di notizie lesive dell'onore lecita espressione del diritto di cronaca ed escludere la responsabilità civile per diffamazione, devono ricorrere tre condizioni consistenti:
a) nella verità oggettiva (o anche soltanto putativa, purché frutto di un serio e diligente lavoro di ricerca) che non sussiste quando, pur essendo veri i singoli fatti riferiti, siano, dolosamente o anche soltanto colposamente taciuti altri fatti, tanto strettamente ricollegabili ai primi da mutarne completamente il significato; ovvero quando i fatti riferiti siano accompagnati da sollecitazioni emotive ovvero da sottintesi, accostamenti, insinuazioni, allusioni o sofismi obiettivamente idonei a creare nella mente del lettore (o ascoltatore) rappresentazioni della realtà oggettiva false: principi sintetizzati nella formula secondo cui "il testo va letto nel contesto", il quale può determinare un mutamento del significato apparente della frase altrimenti non diffamatoria, dandole un contenuto allusivo, percepibile dall'uomo medio (Cass. sez. III, 14-10-2008, n. 25157);
b) nella sussistenza di un interesse pubblico all'informazione, vale a dire nella c.d. pertinenza (ex multis: Cass. n. 5146/2001; Cass. 18.10.1984, n. 5259; Cass. n. 15999/2001; Cass. 15.12.2004, n. 23366);
c) nella forma "civile" dell'esposizione dei fatti e della loro valutazione, e cioè nella c.d. continenza, posto che lo scritto non deve mai eccedere lo scopo informativo da conseguire; deve essere improntato a serena obiettività, con esclusione di ogni preconcetto intento denigratorio; deve essere redatto nel rispetto di quel minimo di dignità cui ha pur sempre diritto anche la più riprovevole delle persone (Cass. 18 ottobre 1984 n. 5259).
In sostanza soltanto la correlazione rigorosa tra fatto e notizia dello stesso soddisfa l'interesse pubblico all'informazione, che è la ratio dell'art. 21 della Cost., di cui il diritto di cronaca è estrinsecazione, riportando l'azione nell'ambito dell'operatività dell'art. 51 cod. pen. e rendendo la condotta non punibile nel concorso degli altri due requisiti della continenza e pertinenza.
Invero il potere-dovere di raccontare e diffondere a mezzo stampa notizie e commenti, quale essenziale estrinsecazione del diritto di libertà di informazione e di pensiero, incontra limiti in altri diritti e interessi fondamentali della persona, come l'onore e la reputazione, anch'essi costituzionalmente protetti dagli artt. 2 e 3 Cost. dovendo peraltro, in materia di cronaca giudiziaria, confrontarsi anche con il presidio costituzionale della presunzione di non colpevolezza di cui all'art. 27 Costituzione (cfr. testualmente, Cassazione civile - Sezione terza - sentenza 16 giugno - 20 luglio 2010, n. 16917, Ricorrente Vespa)) .
In tale ordine concettuale la giurisprudenza anche penale della Corte di Cassazione è costante nel sottolineare il particolare rigore con cui deve essere valutata la prima delle condizioni sopra indicate, precisando che la verità di una notizia mutuata da un provvedimento giudiziario sussiste ogniqualvolta essa sia fedele al contenuto del provvedimento stesso, senza alterazioni o travisamenti di sorta, dovendo il limite della verità essere restrittivamente inteso (v. Cass. pen sez. V, 3.6.98, Pendinelli; sez. V, 21.6.97, Montanelli, n. 6018).
L'esimente, anche putativa, del diritto di cronaca giudiziaria di cui all'art. 51 cod. pen., va, dunque, esclusa allorché manchi la necessaria correlazione tra fatto narrato e fatto accaduto, il che implica l'assolvimento dell'obbligo di verifica della notizia e, quindi, l'assoluto rispetto del limite interno della verità oggettiva di quanto esposto, nonché il rigoroso obbligo di rappresentare gli avvenimenti quali sono, senza alterazioni o travisamenti di sorta, risultando inaccettabili i valori sostitutivi, quale quello della verosimiglianza, in quanto il sacrificio della presunzione di innocenza richiede che non si esorbiti da ciò che è strettamente necessario ai fini informativi (Cass. pen., Sez. V, 14/02/2005, n. 12859; cfr. anche Cass. civ., Sez. III, 17/07/2007, n. 15887).
Il punto è che i rapporti fra giustizia ed informazione necessitano di un ragionevole bilanciamento di valori.
Il processo è infatti un insieme molto complesso e molto sofisticato, caratterizzato da precise regole che l'azione indiscriminata dei mezzi di informazione sovente fa andare in frantumi.
La fase investigativa, quella che culmina nelle conferenze stampa "spettacolo", è appunto solo una fase del processo, che solo cronologicamente precede le altre fasi: non è affatto la più importante delle fasi processuali.
E' infatti il dibattimento il luogo della formazione della prova, il momento del convincimento del giudice, è il dibattimento il luogo del contraddittorio, delle deposizioni dei testi che dovranno rispondere ad entrambe le parti processuali, è il dibattimento che con la sua pubblicità garantisce un processo equo.
La fase investigativa deve poter ipotizzare, supporre, insinuare: ma solo se tali sospetti, illazioni, supposizioni reggeranno il vaglio del processo si formerà la verità processuale.
Ma i tempi della giustizia sono lunghi, e dunque la resa giornalistica dell'arresto è maggiore di quella della sentenza, che interviene a distanza di tempo rispetto al fatto reato.
E' stato efficacemente scritto che più il processo si dilata cronologicamente e più il principio della presunzione di innocenza, che trova altissimo fondamento nell'articolo 27/2 della Costituzione, tende fatalmente a sbiadire nella coscienza collettiva, influenzata da "sentenze di colpevolezza giornalistiche", alimentate da ipotesi investigative presentate come accertamento definitivo, con linguaggio poco sorvegliato e dunque percepite dalla collettività in chiave negativa, di stigmatizzazione sociale, lasciando spazio ad anticipati giudizi di reità, i quali si ripercuotono a loro volta sulla vicenda giudiziaria.
Nel processo virtuale condotto sui mezzi di informazione, l'accusato è costretto a discolparsi se vuole contrastare la deriva giustizialista.
In dubio contra reum, dunque.
A nulla sono valse le normative costituzionali o internazionali: si pensi all'articolo 111 della Costituzione che sancisce il diritto ad essere informati "riservatamente" dei motivi dell'accusa, ma anche alle pronunce della Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo.
Il 26 aprile 1979 la Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo ha pronunciato la sentenza "Sunday Times contro Regno Unito", affermando il principio che la stampa non solo può dare informazioni sui procedimenti pendenti, purché siano rispettate talune condizioni, in particolare la presunzione d'innocenza, ma che ciò è anzi uno dei suoi compiti .
Ma la stessa Corte europea più volte statuì come l'attività di informazione dei mezzi di comunicazione di massa di autorità pubbliche rispetto a procedimenti penali in corso debba essere svolta "con tutta la discrezione e con tutto il riserbo imposti dalla presunzione di innocenza" ("with all the discretion and circumspection necessary if the presumption of innocence is to be respected" , testualmente Allenet de Ribemont vs. Francia, 10 febbraio 1995, par. 38) .
Nell'importante sentenza "Worm contro Austria", del 29 agosto 1997, la Corte Europea dei Diritti dell'Uomo ha ribadito che anche i giornalisti devono rispettare la presunzione d'innocenza, quale definita dall'articolo 6 della Convenzione europea dei diritti dell'uomo (estrinsecazione dle diritto ad un processo equo), e che essa tutela anche le personalità pubbliche e gli uomini politici .
quot;(..) public figures are entitled to the enjoyment of the guarantees of a fair trial set out in Article 6, which in criminal proceedings include the right to an impartial tribunal, on the same basis as every other person. This must be borne in mind by journalists when commenting on pending criminal proceedings since the limits of permissible comment may not extend to statements which are likely to prejudice, whether intentionally or not, the chances of a person receiving a fair trial or to undermine the confidence of the public in the role of the courts in the administration of criminal justice".
Di più: la Corte Europea ha senza mezzi termini statuito come la presunzione di innocenza costituisca uno dei requisiti per il giusto processo (fair trial), principio violato se le dichiarazioni di un pubblico ufficiale relative ad un indagato lascia intendere che egli sia colpevole prima della sentenza di condanna (Daktaras vs. Lituania, III sezione, 10 ottobre 2000, numero di registro 42095/98; la giurisprudenza della CEDU è costante nel senso di ritenere violato il processo equo fondato (anche) sulla presunzione di innocenza: "The Court recalls that the presumption of innocence enshrined in Article 6 § 2 is one of the elements of a fair trial. It will be violated if a statement of a public official concerning a person charged with a criminal offence reflects an opinion that he is guilty before he has been proved so according to law. It suffices, even in the absence of any formal finding, that there is some reasoning to suggest that the official regards the accused as guilty (see, for example, Shuvalov v. Estonia, no. 14942/09, § 75, 29 May 2002; and,mutatis mutandis, Allenet de Ribemont v. France, no. 15175/89, § 35, 10 February 1995). .. The Court further recalls that it has found a breach of Article 6 § 2 of the Convention when prejudicial statements were made against an applicant, in the press, prior to his formal finding of guilt by persons acting as: police agents involved in the investigation (Maksim Petrov v. Russia, no. 23185/03, 6 November 2012), high-ranking police officers (Dovzhenko v. Ukraine, no. 36650/03, 12 January 2012; Allenet de Ribemont v. France, 10 February 1995, Series A no. 308), Ministers (G.C.P. v. Romania, no. 20899/03, 20 December 2011; and, Allenet de Ribemont, cited above), the Prime Minister (Konstas v. Greece, no. 53466/07, 24 May 2011), the Chairman of Parliament (Butkevičius v. Lithuania, no. 48297/99, ECHR 2002‑II (extracts)), the head of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Huseyn and Others v. Azerbaijan, nos. 35485/05, 45553/05, 35680/05 and 36085/05, 26 July 2011) and the Prosecutor General (see G.C.P., cited above; Fatullayev v. Azerbaijan, no. 40984/07, 22 April 2010; and, Butkevičius, cited above; da ultimo, cfr. CASE OF MULOSMANI v. ALBANIA, 29864/03, 8 ottobre 2013).
Del resto, nel 2003 il Consiglio d'Europa emanava una raccomandazione in tema di diffusione di notizie relative a procedimenti penali, stabilendo che tali notizie possono essere diffuse solo se le stesse non rechino pregiudizio alla presunzione di innocenza, imponendo alle forze di polizia di fornire solo "informazioni verificate" o "basate su assunti ragionevoli".
Il diritto - dovere di giudicare è dei giudici, non degli operatori di polizia giudiziaria, non dei giornalisti: se tutti gli attori di questo complesso meccanismo chiamato giustizia, in cui certamente anche l'opinione pubblica ha una sua importanza correlata all'interesse pubblico della notizia, si attenessero ai loro compiti, il risultato sarebbe un processo più giusto.
Nota di aggiornamento
La Corte europea dsei diritti dell'uomo (sez. V) in data 04 marzo 2010 son sentenza n. 28245 (Mokhov C. Russia; cfr. Cass. pen. 2010, 6, 2455) è intervenuta nuovamente in tema di presunzione di innocenza ribadendo i limiti entro i quali informazioni date dagli inquirenti alla stampa su un'indagine in corso sono compatibili con il rispetto del principio di non colpevolezza.
La sentenza concerne il caso di un cittadino russo arrestato nel 2000 in quanto sospettato di omicidio aggravato e di rapina. Mentre le indagini erano ancora in corso, la televisione pubblica locale aveva trasmesso un'intervista ad un agente dell'ufficio del pubblico ministero, il quale affermava che il ricorrente aveva commesso alcuni reati, tra cui, appunto, il reato di omicidio connesso a quello di rapina. La Corte regionale aveva successivamente condannato il ricorrente per i suddetti reati e, con riferimento alla lamentata violazione del principio di presunzione di innocenza avanzata da costui, essa aveva ritenuto tale violazione non sussistente in quanto alla data della trasmissione televisiva il ricorrente era già stato formalmente accusato per omicidio e rapina, cosa che, secondo il codice di procedura penale russo, non sarebbe stata possibile in assenza di prove sufficienti.
Il ricorrente si è rivolto alla Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo lamentando la violazione degli artt. 6 ed 8 per violazione del principio di presunzione di innocenza; la Corte ha riqualificato la doglianza secondo l'art. 6, § 2, della Convenzione.
Il Governo resistente ha eccepito che le informazioni fornite pubblicamente dall'investigatore non potevano essere considerate diffamatorie, dal momento che il soggetto era già stato accusato sulla base di prove ritenute sufficienti ed inoltre era stato successivamente condannato con sentenza definitiva per i medesimi fatti.
La Corte ha innanzitutto riaffermato che l'art. 6, § 2, mira ad impedire l'erosione del principio di equità del processo a causa di affermazioni circa la colpevolezza dell'indagato esternate prima che costui sia effettivamente riconosciuto colpevole a seguito di un processo. Il principio si applica non solo al tribunale competente a giudicare, ma anche agli investigatori, i quali indurrebbero il pubblico a ritenere il soggetto colpevole esprimendo un giudizio anticipato rispetto alla pronuncia del tribunale.
La Corte, fedele alla propria giurisprudenza, precisa che è indispensabile la distinzione tra l'affermazione secondo cui un soggetto è semplicemente sospettato di aver commesso un reato ed invece la dichiarazione di colpevolezza in assenza di una sentenza definitiva, sottolineando l'importanza della scelta delle parole usate nelle pubbliche dichiarazioni da parte degli investigatori.
Nel caso concreto l'investigatore aveva affermato senza dubbio la colpevolezza del soggetto, sottolineando che il reato di omicidio era stato commesso durante le indagini per altri reati, così facendolo apparire il ricorrente come un criminale incallito ed omettendo di riferire che egli si era professato innocente (in tema di violazione della presunzione di innocenza, si veda anche Vassilios Stravropoulos c. Grecia, 27 settembre 2007, in Cassazione penale 2008, p. 1643).
1. COUNCIL OF EUROPE - COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS, Recommendation Rec(2003)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member stateson the provision of information through the media in relation to criminal proceedings
2. EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS - CASE OF DAKTARAS v. LITHUANIA
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on the provision of information through the media
in relation to criminal proceedings
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 10 July 2003
at the 848th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage;
Recalling the commitment of the member states to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter "the Convention"), which constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every individual;
Recalling that the media have the right to inform the public due to the right of the public to receive information, including information on matters of public concern, under Article 10 of the Convention, and that they have a professional duty to do so;
Recalling that the rights to presumption of innocence, to a fair trial and to respect for private and family life under Articles 6 and 8 of the Convention constitute fundamental requirements which must be respected in any democratic society;
Stressing the importance of media reporting in informing the public on criminal proceedings, making the deterrent function of criminal law visible as well as in ensuring public scrutiny of the functioning of the criminal justice system;
Considering the possibly conflicting interests protected by Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the Convention and the necessity to balance these rights in view of the facts of every individual case, with due regard to the supervisory role of the European Court of Human Rights in ensuring the observance of the commitments under the Convention;
Recalling, furthermore, the right of the media and journalists to create professional associations, as guaranteed by the right to freedom of association under Article 11 of the Convention, which is a basis for self-regulation in the media field;
Aware of the many initiatives taken by the media and journalists in Europe to promote the responsible exercise of journalism, either through self-regulation or in co-operation with the state through co-regulatory frameworks;
Desirous to enhance an informed debate on the protection of the rights and interests at stake in the context of media reporting relating to criminal proceedings, and to foster good practice throughout Europe while ensuring access of the media to criminal proceedings;
Recalling its Resolution (74) 26 on the right of reply - position of the individual in relation to the press, its Recommendation No. R (85) 11 on the position of the victim in the framework of criminal law and procedure, its Recommendation No. R (97) 13 concerning the intimidation of witnesses and the rights of the defence, and its Recommendation No. R (97) 21 on the media and the promotion of a culture of tolerance;
Stressing the importance of protecting journalists' sources of information in the context of criminal proceedings, in accordance with its Recommendation No. R (2000) 7 on the right of journalists not to disclose their sources of information;
Bearing in mind Resolution No. 2 on journalistic freedoms and human rights adopted at the 4th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy (Prague, December 1994) as well as the Declaration on a media policy for tomorrow adopted at the 6th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy (Cracow, June 2000);
Recalling that this recommendation does not intend to limit the standards already in force in member states which aim to protect freedom of expression,
Recommends, while acknowledging the diversity of national legal systems concerning criminal procedure, that the governments of member states:
1. take or reinforce, as the case may be, all measures which they consider necessary with a view to the implementation of the principles appended to this recommendation, within the limits of their respective constitutional provisions,
2. disseminate widely this recommendation and its appended principles, where appropriate accompanied by a translation, and
3. bring them in particular to the attention of judicial authorities and police services as well as to make them available to representative organisations of lawyers and media professionals.
Appendix to Recommendation Rec(2003)13
Principles concerning the provision of information through the media
in relation to criminal proceedings
Principle 1 - Information of the public via the media
The public must be able to receive information about the activities of judicial authorities and police services through the media. Therefore, journalists must be able to freely report and comment on the functioning of the criminal justice system, subject only to the limitations provided for under the following principles.
Principle 2 - Presumption of innocence
Respect for the principle of the presumption of innocence is an integral part of the right to a fair trial. Accordingly, opinions and information relating to on-going criminal proceedings should only be communicated or disseminated through the media where this does not prejudice the presumption of innocence of the suspect or accused.
Principle 3 - Accuracy of information
Judicial authorities and police services should provide to the media only verified information or information which is based on reasonable assumptions. In the latter case, this should be clearly indicated to the media.
Principle 4 - Access to information
When journalists have lawfully obtained information in the context of on-going criminal proceedings from judicial authorities or police services, those authorities and services should make available such information, without discrimination, to all journalists who make or have made the same request.
Principle 5 - Ways of providing information to the media
When judicial authorities and police services themselves have decided to provide information to the media in the context of on-going criminal proceedings, such information should be provided on a non-discriminatory basis and, wherever possible, through press releases, press conferences by authorised officers or similar authorised means.
Principle 6 - Regular information during criminal proceedings
In the context of criminal proceedings of public interest or other criminal proceedings which have gained the particular attention of the public, judicial authorities and police services should inform the media about their essential acts, so long as this does not prejudice the secrecy of investigations and police inquiries or delay or impede the outcome of the proceedings. In cases of criminal proceedings which continue for a long period, this information should be provided regularly.
Principle 7 - Prohibition of the exploitation of information
Judicial authorities and police services should not exploit information about on-going criminal proceedings for commercial purposes or purposes other than those relevant to the enforcement of the law.
Principle 8 - Protection of privacy in the context of on-going criminal proceedings
The provision of information about suspects, accused or convicted persons or other parties to criminal proceedings should respect their right to protection of privacy in accordance with Article 8 of the Convention. Particular protection should be given to parties who are minors or other vulnerable persons, as well as to victims, to witnesses and to the families of suspects, accused and convicted. In all cases, particular consideration should be given to the harmful effect which the disclosure of information enabling their identification may have on the persons referred to in this Principle.
Principle 9 - Right of correction or right of reply
Without prejudice to the availability of other remedies, everyone who has been the subject of incorrect or defamatory media reports in the context of criminal proceedings should have a right of correction or reply, as the case may be, against the media concerned. A right of correction should also be available with respect to press releases containing incorrect information which have been issued by judicial authorities or police services.
Principle 10 - Prevention of prejudicial influence
In the context of criminal proceedings, particularly those involving juries or lay judges, judicial authorities and police services should abstain from publicly providing information which bears a risk of substantial prejudice to the fairness of the proceedings.
Principle 11 - Prejudicial pre-trial publicity
Where the accused can show that the provision of information is highly likely to result, or has resulted, in a breach of his or her right to a fair trial, he or she should have an effective legal remedy.
Principle 12 - Admission of journalists
Journalists should be admitted to public court hearings and public pronouncements of judgements without discrimination and without prior accreditation requirements. They should not be excluded from court hearings, unless and as far as the public is excluded in accordance with Article 6 of the Convention.
Principle 13 - Access of journalists to courtrooms
The competent authorities should, unless it is clearly impracticable, provide in courtrooms a number of seats for journalists which is sufficient in accordance with the demand, without excluding the presence of the public as such.
Principle 14 - live reporting and recordings in court rooms
Live reporting or recordings by the media in court rooms should not be possible unless and as far as expressly permitted by law or the competent judicial authorities. Such reporting should be authorised only where it does not bear a serious risk of undue influence on victims, witnesses, parties to criminal proceedings, juries or judges.
Principle 15 - Support for media reporting
Announcements of scheduled hearings, indictments or charges and other information of relevance to legal reporting should be made available to journalists upon simple request by the competent authorities in due time, unless impracticable. Journalists should be allowed, on a non-discriminatory basis, to make or receive copies of publicly pronounced judgments. They should have the possibility to disseminate or communicate these judgments to the public.
Principle 16 - Protection of witnesses
The identity of witnesses should not be disclosed, unless a witness has given his or her prior consent, the identification of a witness is of public concern, or the testimony has already been given in public. The identity of witnesses should never be disclosed where this endangers their lives or security. Due respect shall be paid to protection programmes for witnesses, especially in criminal proceedings against organised crime or crime within the family.
Principle 17 - Media reporting on the enforcement of court sentences
Journalists should be permitted to have contacts with persons serving court sentences in prisons, as far as this does not prejudice the fair administration of justice, the rights of prisoners and prison officers or the security of a prison.
Principle 18 - Media reporting after the end of court sentences
In order not to prejudice the re-integration into society of persons who have served court sentences, the right to protection of privacy under Article 8 of the Convention should include the right to protect the identity of these persons in connection with their prior offence after the end of their court sentences, unless they have expressly consented to the disclosure of their identity or they and their prior offence are of public concern again or have become of public concern again.
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
CASE OF DAKTARAS v. LITHUANIA
(Application no. 42095/98)
10 October 2000
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It is subject to editorial revision before its reproduction in final form in the official reports of selected judgments and decisions of the Court.
In the case of Daktaras v. Lithuania,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. COSTA, President,
Mr W. FUHRMANN,
Mr L. LOUCAIDES,
Mrs F. TULKENS,
Sir Nicolas BRATZA, appointed to sit in respect of Lithuania,
Mrs H.S. GREVE,
Mr K. TRAJA, judges,
and Mrs S. DOLLÉ, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 14 March and 19 September 2000,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 42095/98) against the Republic of Lithuania lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission") under former Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by a Lithuanian national, Mr Henrikas Daktaras ("the applicant"), on 11 May 1998.
2. The applicant was represented by Mr R. Girdziusas and Mr V. Sviderskis, lawyers practising in Kaunas and Vilnius respectively. The Lithuanian Government ("the Government") were represented by their Agent.
3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that the Supreme Court, which heard the petition to quash the appellate court's judgment, was not an impartial tribunal within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and that the prosecutor breached the principle of the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Article 6 § 2 in his pre-trial decision of 1 October 1996.
4. The application was transmitted to the Court on 1 November 1998, when Protocol No. 11 to the Convention came into force (Article 5 § 2 of Protocol No. 11).
5. The application was allocated to the Third Section of the Court
(Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court). Within that Section, the Chamber that would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted as provided in Rule 26 § 1. Mr P. K?ris, the judge elected in respect of Lithuania, withdrew from sitting in the case (Rule 28). The Government accordingly appointed Sir Nicolas Bratza, the judge elected in respect of the United Kingdom, to sit in his stead (Article 27 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 29 § 1).
6. By a decision of 11 January 2000 the Chamber declared the application partly admissible and decided to hold a hearing on the merits of the case [Note du greffe : la décision de la Cour est disponible au greffe.].
7. The hearing took place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 14 March 2000 (Rule 59 § 2).
There appeared before the Court:
(a) for the Government
Mr G. SVEDAS, Deputy Minister of Justice, Agent;
(b) for the applicant
Mr V. SVIDERSKIS, Counsel.
The Court heard addresses by them.
8. On 3, 4, 8 and 24 February, 20 March and 19 June 2000, the parties produced a number of documents, either at the Court's request or of their own accord.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
9. On 18 February 1996 a prosecutor at the Organised Crime Division of the Office of the Prosecutor General instituted criminal proceedings against the applicant. He was suspected of being an accomplice to the offence of demanding and obtaining a ransom of 7,000 United States dollars for returning the stolen car of a certain J.M.
10. On 1 April 1996 the applicant was charged on four counts, including blackmail (turto prievartavimas) and inciting the victim (poveikis nukent?jusiajam) to make false statements.
11. The pre-trial investigation in the case was conducted by prosecutors at the Organised Crime Division of the Office of the Prosecutor General. It was concluded on 26 September 1996. From that date until 1 October 1996 the applicant and his counsel were given access to the case file.
12. After having access to the case file, the applicant and his counsel requested the prosecution to discontinue the case, arguing that the charges against the applicant were ill-founded and that the case file "contained no evidence [of his] guilt".
13. On 1 October 1996 a prosecutor of the Organised Crime Division dismissed the applicant's requests. In his decision the prosecutor stated, inter alia:
"After having access to the case file, [the applicant] ... submitted [requests] to discontinue the criminal case on the ground that he had not committed the offences alleged ... and that his guilt ... had not been proved [kalt? ... ne?rodyta]. [These] allegations must be dismissed as ill-founded because it has been established [kalt? ... ?rodyta] from the evidence collected in the course of the pre-trial investigation that the applicant is guilty of [these] crimes.
Although Henrikas Daktaras has not admitted having committed the alleged offences, his guilt has been proved by the witnesses' evidence, ... video and audio records ... and other material collected in the course of the pre-trial investigation. The fact that H. Daktaras concealed an offence ... is proved by the evidence [given by witnesses S.?., V.V. and A.L.] ... The fact that H. Daktaras threatened [the victim J.M.] by force to obtain property ... is proved by the evidence [given by S.?. and the material evidence] ... The fact that H. Daktarasconspired with persons who had committed the theft [of the car] ... is proved by [his own statements] ... The fact that
H. Daktaras ... intimidated the victim is fully proved by the evidence [given by J.M., S.?. and material evidence] ... [The above evidence] is assessed by the prosecution as an incitement to make [J.M.] give false statements ...
Against the above background, in accordance with Article 229 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it is decided
1. to dismiss [the applicant's] requests entirely, and
2. to inform the persons concerned about the decision."
14. On 2 October 1996 the Chief Prosecutor at the Organised Crime Division confirmed the bill of indictment and sent the case to the Supreme Court.
15. On the same date the President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court transmitted the case to the Vilnius Regional Court.
16. On 18 November 1996 a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court committed the applicant for trial.
17. On 13 February 1997 the judge found the applicant guilty of blackmail and inciting the victim to make false statements. He was convicted as the principal offender on the blackmail charge. He was acquitted on two other counts. The applicant was sentenced to seven years and six months' imprisonment. He was also fined 15,000 litai and his property was confiscated.
18. The applicant appealed, relying on various errors of domestic substantive and procedural law. He pleaded, inter alia, that he had been presumed guilty and that he had been deprived of a fair trial by an independent and impartial court.
19. On 27 May 1997 the Court of Appeal held a full appeal hearing. It amended the judgment of 13 February 1997 in so far as it concerned the applicant's conviction for blackmail, ruling that the applicant was a secondary party, not the principal offender. The sentence remained unchanged.
20. The applicant lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court, pleading that both lower courts had erred in fact and law and that he had not committed the alleged offences.
21. On 3 July 1997 the judge of the Vilnius Regional Court who had delivered the first-instance judgment wrote a letter to the President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court in which he contested the conclusions reached by the Court of Appeal as to the level of the applicant's participation in the blackmail offence. In that letter the judge maintained that the applicant ought to have been convicted as the principal offender. The judge requested the President to lodge a petition (kasacinis teikimas) to quash the Court of Appeal's judgment.
22. On 27 August 1997 the President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court lodged a petition with the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court to quash the Court of Appeal's judgment. In the petition the President stated, inter alia:
"The judgment of the Court of Appeal should be quashed ... [The appellate court] ... wrongly interpreted and applied the law ... On the basis of the material ... it established that H.Daktaras ... executed the will of the group of persons ... and was the principal offender on the blackmail charge ...
In accordance with Article 417 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, I petition
to quash the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 27 May 1997 ... and to uphold the judgment of the Vilnius Regional Court of 13 February 1997."
23. On 8 September 1997 the same President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court appointed a judge rapporteur in the case. On
23 September 1997 the President also appointed a Chamber of three judges of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court to examine the case.
24. A hearing was held on 2 December 1997 during which the Chief Prosecutor of the Organised Crime Division requested the Chamber to uphold the petition on behalf of the prosecution, which had not lodged an appeal itself in the case. The applicant requested the Supreme Court to uphold his appeal and reject the petition.
25. On the above date the Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the Court of Appeal and upheld the judgment of the Vilnius Regional Court, rejecting the applicant's appeal and upholding the petition. The Supreme Court found that the applicant had been the principal offender on the blackmail charge.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
26. Relevant provisions are as follows:
A. IMPARTIALITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES
ARTICLE 14 OF THE CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE (THE CCP")
"In administering justice in criminal matters judges are independent and beholden only to the law. Judges decide criminal cases in accordance with the law and their conscience in conditions which make it impossible for them to be affected by outside matters. Any interference with the judges' or courts' actions in administering justice is prohibited and gives rise to liability under the law."
ARTICLE 76 OF THE CCP
"A court ... shall assess evidence according to [its] inner conviction, based on an extensive, full and objective review of all the circumstances of the case, in accordance with the law and legal conscience.
No evidence shall have a prejudicial influence on a court ..."
Under the terms of Article 31 a judge in respect of whom there are lawful grounds to fear a lack of impartiality must withdraw. On the same ground the judge can be challenged by the defendant and other parties to the case.
B. STATUS OF JUDGES AND OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CRIMINAL DIVISION OF THE SUPREME COURT
Under section 13 of the Courts Act and Article 2 of the Statute of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is composed of the President, Presidents of the Civil and Criminal Divisions and other judges.
Under sections 24 and 35 of the Courts Act and Articles 16 to 18 of the Statute of the Supreme Court, judges of the Supreme Court are professional and permanent judges appointed by Parliament.
According to section 39 of the Courts Act, presidents of divisions are officers having power over the "organisational sphere" of the courts' work. Under the third paragraph of section 39, presidents of divisions may also sit as judges; in such cases they perform the same judicial functions as ordinary judges.
Article 12 of the Statute of the Supreme Court provides that the President of the Criminal Division,
"(1) in examining cases, has the same rights and obligations as other judges. [He] may submit petitions to quash or amend a lower court's judgment ...;
(2) constitutes chambers of judges and appoints their presidents, ... distributes cases among judges ... [and] supervises their examination;
(3) submits proposals to the President of the Court on premiums and bonuses for judges and other officials;
(4) heads the Registry;
(5) organises the case-law research work ...;
(6) confirms the statistical survey of activities ...;
(7) executes other functions under the law and the organisational directives of the President of the Supreme Court."
Article 14 of the Statute provides that the President of the Criminal Division is responsible for the organisation of appeal hearings.
The fourth paragraph of section 39 of the Courts Act effectively prohibits presidents of courts or presidents of divisions from exerting any influence over or otherwise breaching the independence of other judges in their administration of justice.
C. PETITION TO QUASH OR AMEND A LOWER COURT'S JUDGMENT
Under Article 417 § 4 of the CCP the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeal, presidents of regional courts, and presidents of the criminal divisions of the above courts may submit a petition to quash or amend a particular lower court's judgment. According to Article 417 § 5 the court hearing the petition shall follow the same procedure as on a normal appeal lodged by the parties to the proceedings.
Article 418 § 2 lays down the requirements for lodging an appeal or petition: it should refer to the specific court hearing the appeal, the case and decision at issue, the substance of the decision and the grounds for quashing the lower court's judgment.
D. PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
Article 31 § 1 of the Constitution provides:
"A person shall be considered innocent until proved guilty in accordance with law by a final judgment of the court."
Article 11 § 2 of the CCP provides:
"No one shall be declared guilty of having committed an offence or punished by a criminal penalty save by a court judgment in accordance with law."
E. THE ROLE OF A PROSECUTOR IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS
Article 118 of the Constitution provides that prosecutors conduct, inter alia, criminal prosecutions and supervise those responsible for the pre-trial investigation.
Under Articles 45 and 46 of the CCP the prosecutor's role is to ensure that the criminal case is instituted lawfully and that the domestic law is complied with during the pre-trial investigation, to press charges at trial, to appeal against any procedural act and to supervise the execution of judgments.
In a decision of 5 February 1999 the Constitutional Court gave, inter alia, the following description of the general role of a prosecutor in the Lithuanian criminal process:
"The Constitution treats prosecutors as part of the judiciary having specific functions. A prosecutor is an officer who supervises the pre-trial investigation ...
The prosecutor can take part in the criminal case right from the outset. ... In accordance with the procedure provided for by law, he commences the criminal prosecution and pursues it by investigating the crime. One of his functions is to supervise the authorities conducting the pre-trial investigation. ... The prosecutor can himself conduct the investigation of any offence. ...
The prosecutor is therefore responsible for the pre-trial stage of the criminal proceedings. ...
The law does not provide the court ... [but] the prosecutor with the procedural means to supervise the pre-trial investigation."
Under Articles 3, 125 to 128 and 130 of the CCP, an investigator, prosecutor and court are all entitled to institute or discontinue a criminal case and to collect evidence in the case (Articles 18 and 74-76). These functions are exercised according to the stage of the proceedings.
The pre-trial investigation can be conducted by prosecutors working under the authority of the Office of the Prosecutor General, or investigators working for the Ministry of the Interior (Article 142).
Pursuant to Articles 24 and 133 of the CCP the prosecutors ensure that domestic law is complied with by the investigators at the stage of the pre-trial investigation. They are responsible for rectifying any breaches of the law. In doing so, the prosecutors "function independently from other authorities and are beholden only to the law" (Article 24 §§ 2 and 3). Under Article 24 § 4 the prosecutors' decisions are "binding on all authorities and persons".
Where the pre-trial investigation is conducted by the prosecution, an accused may, while having access to the case file (Articles 225-29 of the CCP), request the prosecutor to "supplement the investigation". The prosecutor must give a reasoned decision if he dismisses this request (Article 229 § 2). After such a decision, the bill of indictment may be prepared (Article 230).
A complaint by the accused about an act of the prosecutor at the stage of the pre-trial investigation shall be submitted to and determined by a higher prosecutor (Articles 242-44 of the CCP).
After the bill of indictment is confirmed, the case must be transmitted to a court (Article 241 of the CCP). From that stage on "any requests or complaints about the case shall be submitted directly to the court"
(Article 241 § 2).
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
27. The applicant alleged a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, according to which:
"In the determination ... of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an independent and impartial tribunal ..."
28. The applicant complained that the Chamber of the Supreme Court which heard the petition to quash the appellate court's judgment could not be considered an impartial tribunal within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention because it had been instructed to quash the Court of Appeal's decision and reinstate the first-instance judgment following the petition lodged by the President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court. The applicant's fears of bias by the Supreme Court were aggravated by the fact that the President had himself appointed the judge rapporteur and the members of the Chamber in the case.
29. The Government argued that the purpose of a petition to quash or amend is to permit senior judicial officers to eliminate possible mistakes in the factual or legal assessment of a case by the lower courts, thereby ensuring coherent judicial practice. The Government also submitted that the President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court performed only organisational functions under the domestic statutes, that he took no part in the examination of the specific case and that he had no legal power to influence the Chamber's decision or otherwise to subject the judges hearing the petition to inappropriate pressure.
The petition to quash the Court of Appeal's judgment was subject to the same review procedure as the applicant's appeal, so the former could have no more influence on the court's decision than the latter. By reference to the Lithgow and Others v. the United Kingdom judgment (8 July 1986,
Series A no. 102), the Government contended that the President's opinion in the petition had not been binding on the Supreme Court judges and therefore did not justify doubts as to the court's impartiality. Nor did the fact that the members of the appeal Chamber had been appointed by the President make any difference. In this regard the Government presented copies of eleven decisions by the Supreme Court where various petitions by the President of the Supreme Court or the President of the Criminal Division had been wholly or partially rejected, regardless of the fact that in some of those cases the same senior judicial officer had both appointed and petitioned the appeal judges.
30. The Court recalls that there are two aspects to the requirement of impartiality in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. First, the tribunal must be subjectively impartial, that is, no member of the tribunal should hold any personal prejudice or bias. Personal impartiality is presumed unless there is evidence to the contrary. Secondly, the tribunal must also be impartial from an objective viewpoint, meaning it must offer sufficient guarantees to exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect (see Academy Trading Ltd and Others v. Greece, no. 30342/96, § 43, 4 April 2000, unreported).
31. As to the subjective test, the Court notes that no evidence has been produced in the present case which might suggest personal bias on the part of the individual judges of the Supreme Court.
32. Under the objective test, it must be determined whether there are ascertainable facts, which may nevertheless raise doubts as to their impartiality. In this respect even appearances may be of a certain importance. What is at stake is the confidence which the courts in a democratic society must inspire in the public and above all in the parties to the proceedings (ibid., § 45).
33. Turning to the facts of the present case, the Court notes that the President of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court lodged a petition with the judges of that division to quash the Court of Appeal's judgment following the request by the first-instance judge, who was dissatisfied with that judgment. The President proposed the quashing of the Court of Appeal's decision and the reinstatement of the first-instance judgment. The same President then appointed the judge rapporteur and constituted the Chamber which was to examine the case. The President's petition was endorsed by the prosecution at the hearing and eventually upheld by the Supreme Court.
34. The Government stressed that the President's role in submitting a petition to quash or amend a lower court's judgment is in no way that of a party to the proceedings before the Supreme Court; his role is confined to giving the court hearing the petition an impartial and independent opinion on the factual and legal issues raised, drawing attention to any point on which the contested decision should be quashed.
35. However, the Court considers that such an opinion cannot be regarded as neutral from the parties' point of view. By recommending that a particular decision be adopted or quashed, the President necessarily becomes the defendant's ally or opponent (see, mutatis mutandis, the Borgers v. Belgium judgment of 30 October 1991, Series A no. 214-B,
pp. 31-32, § 26).
In the present application the President was in effect taking up the case of the prosecution because at the hearing the President's petition was contested by the applicant but endorsed by the prosecution, which had not itself lodged an appeal (see paragraph 24 above and, mutatis mutandis, the Findlay v. the United Kingdom judgment of 25 February 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-I, pp. 281-82, § 74).
36. Furthermore, while it is true that the President did not sit as a member of the court which determined the petition, he did choose the judge rapporteur and the members of the Chamber from amongst those judges of the Criminal Division which he heads.
In this regard the Court recalls the above-mentioned Findlay judgment (ibid., §§ 74-76) where it found that a court martial had lacked independence and impartiality because of the significant role played by the convening officer before and during the hearing of the applicant's case, including the fact that he had convened the court and appointed its members who were subordinate to him in rank and who fell within his chain of command.
It is true that the present case is different in the sense that the Supreme Court consists of professional permanent judges (see paragraph 26 above) as opposed to certain ad hoc lay judges who formed part of the court martial in the Findlay case.
However, when the President of the Criminal Division not only takes up the prosecution case but also, in addition to his organisational and managerial functions, constitutes the court, it cannot be said that, from an objective standpoint, there are sufficient guarantees to exclude any legitimate doubt as to the absence of inappropriate pressure. The fact that the President's intervention was prompted by the first-instance judge only aggravates the situation.
37. The Government's argument that in some other cases the Supreme Court has rejected the appeal initiated by its President or the President of the Criminal Division makes no difference. As mentioned above, in assessing the compliance of each particular case with Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, any legitimate doubt as to the impartiality of a tribunal is itself sufficient to find a violation of that provision.
38. In the light of these circumstances, the Court finds that the applicant's doubts as to the impartiality of the Supreme Court may be said to have been objectively justified. Consequently, there has been a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 2 OF THE CONVENTION
39. The applicant complained that the prosecutor declared him guilty in the decision of 1 October 1996, in breach of Article 6 § 2 of the Convention, which provides as follows:
"Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law."
40. The Government argued that the prosecutor's statements in the decision of 1 October 1996 merely described the degree of suspicion against the applicant by referring to the strength of the evidence against him in the case file, in response to the applicant's claim that there was no such evidence. It was only after this decision that the prosecutor could proceed with the bill of indictment and the conclusion of the pre-trial investigation. Otherwise, any doubt in favour of the applicant would have led to the withdrawal of the charges against him. In this context the prosecutor was required either to adopt a reasoned decision confirming the validity of the suspicion or to discontinue the case. The Government further stressed that the decision of 1 October 1996 was not a publicly made statement warranting particular scrutiny under Article 6 § 2. Overall, having regard to the context in which it was made, the prosecutor's statement did not breach the requirements of that provision.
41. The Court recalls that the presumption of innocence enshrined in Article 6 § 2 of the Convention is one of the elements of a fair criminal trial required by Article 6 § 1. It will be violated if a statement of a public official concerning a person charged with a criminal offence reflects an opinion that he is guilty before he has been proved so according to law. It suffices, even in the absence of any formal finding, that there is some reasoning to suggest that the official regards the accused as guilty (see, mutatis mutandis, the Allenet de Ribemont v. France judgment of 10 February 1995, Series A no. 308, p. 16, § 35).
In this regard the Court emphasises the importance of the choice of words by public officials in their statements before a person has been tried and found guilty of an offence.
42. Moreover, the principle of the presumption of innocence may be infringed not only by a judge or court but also by other public authorities (ibid., § 36), including prosecutors. This is particularly so where a prosecutor, as in the present case, performs a quasi-judicial function when ruling on the applicant's request to dismiss the charges at the stage of the pre-trial investigation, over which he has full procedural control (see paragraph 26 above).
43. Nevertheless, whether a statement of a public official is in breach of the principle of the presumption of innocence must be determined in the context of the particular circumstances in which the impugned statement was made (see, inter alia, the Adolf v. Austria judgment of 26 March 1982, Series A no. 49, pp. 17-19, §§ 36-41).
44. The Court notes that in the present case the impugned statements were made by a prosecutor not in a context independent of the criminal proceedings themselves, as for instance in a press conference, but in the course of a reasoned decision at a preliminary stage of those proceedings, rejecting the applicant's request to discontinue the prosecution.
The Court further notes that, in asserting in his decision that the applicant's guilt had been "proved" by the evidence in the case file, the prosecutor used the same term as had been used by the applicant, who in his request to discontinue the case had contended that his guilt had not been "proved" by the evidence in the file. While the use of the term "proved" is unfortunate, the Court considers that, having regard to the context in which the word was used, both the applicant and the prosecutor were referring not to the question whether the applicant's guilt had been established by the evidence - which was clearly not one for the determination of the prosecutor - but to the question whether the case file disclosed sufficient evidence of the applicant's guilt to justify proceeding to trial.
45. In these circumstances the Court concludes that the statements used by the prosecutor in his decision of 1 October 1996 did not breach the principle of the presumption of innocence.
There has therefore been no breach of Article 6 § 2 of the Convention.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
46. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
"If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party."
47. The applicant claimed 10,000 litai (LTL) for non-pecuniary damage suffered as a result of a violation of the Convention.
48. The Government considered this claim unjustified.
49. The Court considers that the finding of a violation of Article 6 § 1 constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction. Accordingly, it does not make any award under this head.
B. COSTS AND EXPENSES
50. The applicant also claimed LTL 10,354.22 for legal fees and expenses, including the travel and accommodation costs in connection with the hearing of his case in Strasbourg. He submitted the relevant documents in support of his claim.
51. The Government considered the above claim excessive.
52. The Court considers that the costs claimed under this head were actually and necessarily incurred, and awards them in full, plus any value-added tax that may be chargeable.
C. DEFAULT INTEREST
53. According to the information available to the Court, the statutory rate of interest applicable in Lithuania at the date of adoption of the present judgment is 9.5% per annum.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
2. Holds that there has been no violation of Article 6 § 2 of the Convention;
3. Holds that a finding of a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicant;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final according to
Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, LTL 10,354.22 (ten thousand three hundred and fifty-four litai twenty-two centai) for legal costs and expenses, plus any value-added tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that simple interest at an annual rate of 9.5% shall be payable from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant's claims for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 10 October 2000, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
S. DOLLÉ J.-P. COSTA
Nota di aggiornamento:
In data 29 settembre 2010 il Garante della Privacy con provvedimento pubblicato sub http://www.garanteprivacy.it/garante/doc.jsp?ID=1763096 in tema di diffusione integrale di ordinanze di custodia cautelare e dunque di dati giudiziari sensibili ha ritento che, trattandosi di forma dell'esercizio del diritto di cronaca e di critica qualora vi sia interesse per la collettività, si ricada nella fattispecie disciplinata dagli artt. 136 e ss. del Codice della Privacy (d. lg. 30 giugno 2003, n. 196, Codice in materia di protezione dei dati personali). Detta norma estende l'ambito applicativo delle disposizioni concernenti il trattamento dei dati personali in ambito giornalistico anche a ogni altra attività di manifestazione del pensiero implicante trattamento di dati personali, effettuata da soggetti anche non esercitanti professionalmente l'attività giornalistica (art. 136, comma 1, lett. c) del d. lg. 30 giugno 2003, n. 196, Codice in materia di protezione dei dati personali).
Se dunque tale trattamento dei dati per finalità di manifestazione del pensiero può essere effettuato in assenza delle garanzie previste dall'art. 27 per i dati giudiziari e senza il consenso dell'interessato previsto dagli artt. 23 e 26 del Codice, esso deve comunque rispettare i principi di essenzialità dell'informazione, pertinenza e non eccedenza (art. 137, commi 1, lett. b), 2 e 3 del Codice).
Media Protocol for Prosecutors (Nuova Zelanda): http://www.crownlaw.govt.nz/uploads/media_protocol_2013.pdf
PPINION (2013) No. 8 OF THE CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL OF EUROPEAN PROSECUTORS ON RELATIONS BETWEEN PROSECUTORS AND THE MEDIA (Yerevan, 8-9 October 2013) https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=CCPE(2012)4&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&BackColorInternet=DBDCF2&BackColorIntranet=FDC864&BackColorLogged=FDC864
Doveri dei giornalisti, diritto di cronaca (in particolare giudiziaria) e di critica, Franco Abruzzo http://www.altalex.com/index.php?idnot=2752
1. Premessa. Il rispetto della dignità della persona umana fondamento della nostra Costituzione. L’interesse dello Stato all'integrità morale della persona. Il concetto (giuridico) di giornalismo.
2. I padri costituenti e i limiti del diritto di cronaca nella legge sulla stampa del 1948.
3. Diritto di cronaca, diritto dei cittadini all’informazione e Corte costituzionale.
4. La professione giornalistica, come quella degli avvocati e dei medici, è nella Costituzione.
5. Il "decalogo" della Cassazione sui limiti del diritto di cronaca.
6. Il diritto di cronaca (e di critica) ancorato a "notizie vere". La cronaca giudiziaria e il limite del rispetto del principio della presunzione di non colpevolezza (o di innocenza).
7. Diffamazione e responsabilità civile di editore, direttore e articolista.
8. La riforma del reato di diffamazione a mezzo stampa. L’interdizione dalla professione.
9. Diffamazione online: la Cassazione ribalta le regole. Competente il tribunale in cui risiede il presunto danneggiato.
10. Privacy. Analisi del Codice deontologico.
11. Segreto professionale. Con le sentenze Goodwin e Roemen la Corte di Strasburgo impone l’alt alle perquisizioni nelle redazioni a tutela delle fonti dei giornalisti. Pm e giudici italiani devono indagare solo sui loro collaboratori (che "spifferano" le notizie) e non su chi riceve l’informazione.
12. Conclusioni. Il monito di Walter Tobagi contro la "superinformazione" e i "Comitati di Giustizia e Stampa" di Adolfo Beria di Argentine. Il giornalista (come l’avvocato) parte nel procedimento penale.
Media Protocol for Prosecutors
Crown Law, July 1sy, 2013
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
As at 1 July 2013
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purpose ....................................................................................................................................................... 1
Principles ...................................................................................................................................................... 1
Other Matters Likely to Affect Interaction with Media ........................................................................ 2
Guidance ...................................................................................................................................................... 3
Comment prior to charge .................................................................................................................. 3
Comment during proceedings .......................................................................................................... 3
Comment after proceedings .............................................................................................................. 4
Responding to Inaccurate Information ................................................................................................... 4
Information on the Internet ...................................................................................................................... 4
Relationship Between Crown Prosecutors and Police .......................................................................... 5
Criminal Contempt of Court ..................................................................................................................... 5
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
1. The purpose of this protocol is to assist prosecutors to take a common approach to
public statements regarding cases pending or before the Courts. The protocol is for
2. The protocol sets out the roles and duties of prosecutors in dealing with the media and
is intended for the use of Crown Law and Crown Solicitors. The term “prosecutor” is
3. Prosecutors in government agencies should be aware of and take into account the
guidance provided in this protocol.
4. Each Crown Solicitor should have a media policy covering matters to do with
communications with the media, including who may speak to the media and processes
for dealing with a media situation of urgency and priority. Subject to this protocol and
to their organisation’s media policy, prosecutors may respond, at their discretion, to
media enquiries about cases for which they are responsible.
5. When communicating with the public through the media, prosecutors are guided by
five principles. These are:
5.1 Not making remarks that may prejudice fair trial interests or the perceived
objectivity of the judge;
5.2 Supporting the administration of justice and the integrity of the criminal
5.3 Respecting the principle of open justice;
5.4 Recognising the public interest in receiving accurate information about the
criminal justice system and criminal prosecutions; and
5.5 Treating victims of crime with courtesy and compassion, and respecting their
dignity and privacy.
6. It is of primary importance that public statements do not prejudice a defendant’s right
to a fair trial. The public interest in a fair trial is fundamental and can override other
important principles such as open justice and freedom of expression. It is also
necessary to bear in mind that while the law of contempt may apply in some
circumstances, actions short of contempt can result in a trial being adjourned or stayed
or may give rise to grounds for an appeal.
7. Prosecutors must be mindful of their obligations and duties as officers of the Court and
their role in the administration of justice. They should be careful not to express
personal opinions inconsistent with those obligations.
8. Open justice is regarded as a fundamental tenet of our justice system and is particularly
important in criminal proceedings. The media plays a key role in upholding open
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
justice. Public scrutiny is beneficial to the administration of justice and the community
has a right to accurate information, subject to lawful restrictions and the defendant’s
right to a fair trial.
9. Assisting the public to understand the operation of the criminal justice system
encourages public confidence that cases are being dealt with in accordance with the law.
There will be occasions when prosecutors can assist public understanding by succinct
and clear explanations of law or procedure.
10. At all times prosecutors must be sensitive to the rights and needs of victims of crime.
Victims’ addresses or contact details should never be disclosed without consent. If
members of the media wish to contact a victim, it may be appropriate to advise the
victim of the inquiry so that he or she may decide whether to contact the inquirer
directly. Prosecutors may wish to discuss with victims the advisability of responding to
media requests for interviews.
11. The Victims’ Rights Act 2002 also requires that victims are kept informed of the
progress of proceedings, ensuring that they are not taken unaware by information
published in the media.
OTHER MATTERS LIKELY TO AFFECT INTERACTION WITH
12. In addition to these guidelines there is a range of relevant rules and provisions which
may affect the release of information to the public. Nothing in these guidelines affects:
12.1 The law relating to contempt of court;
12.2 Any suppression orders;
12.3 Any statutory provisions which regulate the disclosure or publication of
information (for example, s 63 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, which
makes it an offence to knowingly publish any information about a request for
a sentence indication or a sentence indication that has been given, before the
defendant has been sentenced or the charge has been dismissed);
12.4 Legal professional privilege; and
12.5 The law relating to defamation.
13. Prosecutors should also be aware of:
13.1 The role of the judiciary in making decisions about the release of information
held by the courts, including any rules of Court and media guidelines; and
13.2 Any relevant professional rules (for example, Rules 13 and 13.12 of the
Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
14. The paragraphs below set out some guidance about what information or statements
may be publicly made available. These are matters of judgement and discretion and
prosecutors should always have regard to the overarching principles and other rules
referred to above.
COMMENT PRIOR TO CHARGE
15. Comment by prosecutors prior to charges being filed will rarely be appropriate. Any
comment should be limited to providing an explanation of the general issues raised and
should not address the particular case or its circumstances.
COMMENT DURING PROCEEDINGS
16. Once charges have been filed the obligation to avoid prejudice to a fair trial becomes
acute. At this stage (including bail hearings) it is usually appropriate to provide
information about the charges, the defendant and the progress of proceedings. In
particular, the prosecutor may state:
16.1 The fact and location of the arrest and the general nature of the criminal
16.2 Once the defendant has appeared in Court, the name, age and residence (town
or city or region only) of the defendant (subject always to name suppression or
16.3 Date and location of next Court appearance;
16.4 Guidance on the type of hearing – first or second appearance, plea, case
review hearing, trial callover etc;
16.5 Names of the prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer who have appeared in
16.6 Information about what has happened procedurally with the case e.g. whether
the prosecution has been discontinued, charges reduced etc;
16.7 If relevant, confirmation that advice has been sought from Crown Law/the
17. In general, the following information should not be provided or comment should not
17.1 Any previous convictions of the defendant, whether directly or indirectly,
unless these have been ruled admissible and referred to in open Court. For
example, public comment that the defendant was on bail at the time of the
offence would constitute contempt of court: Solicitor-General v Wellington
Newspapers Ltd  1 NZLR 45. Referring to the fact a defendant is facing
trial on other unrelated charges may also constitute a contempt: Solicitor-General
v APN New Zealand Ltd  NZAR 7;
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
17.2 Personal information, address or telephone number of witnesses, victims and
in some instances, defendants, unless there is express consent;
17.3 Information concerning Chambers/in camera hearings including information
provided during bail hearings;
17.4 Personal opinions in relation to a particular case, especially about the outcome
of a hearing, an individual’s guilt or innocence, or a sentencing outcome;
17.5 Comment on any judicial decision other than to summarise or explain the
effect of the decision.
18. Requests for information that has been produced as an exhibit during criminal
proceedings should be referred to the Court for consideration under Part 6 of the
Criminal Procedure Rules 2012 (SR 2012/415).
19. Occasionally, requests are received from the media for copies of the summaries of fact
prepared by the Crown and provided to the court. Summaries of fact should not be
made available to the media before the prosecution presents its submissions in open
Court. Where there is a contest over the accuracy of the summary it should not be
made available in that form until the contest has been resolved.
20. Other information or documents which have been filed and used in open court, such as
submissions, may be released to the media unless there are orders preventing such
release or where the prosecutor intends to seek such orders.
COMMENT AFTER PROCEEDINGS
21. As discussed above, prosecutors may provide reasonable assistance to explain the law,
procedure or the Crown’s submissions on sentence to ensure accurate reporting but
should avoid expressing any personal opinion about the outcome of a case.
22. Prosecutors should not comment on the likelihood of a Crown appeal but may advise
that a matter has been referred to the Solicitor-General for a decision on whether an
appeal should be filed.
23. Prosecutors are reminded that when they make comments to the media outside the
Court, qualified privilege will be difficult to establish and they are potentially exposed to
personal liability in defamation.
RESPONDING TO INACCURATE INFORMATION
24. From time to time prosecutors may be aware that inaccurate information about the
proceedings has been published. Subject to the principles outlined above and any
suppression orders, it may be appropriate to offer factual explanations of the relevant
law or procedure to correct errors and ensure accurate reporting.
INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET
25. The widespread availability of information on the internet poses challenges for
prosecutors. Information released to any person may be rapidly and widely available.
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
26. The enduring nature of information in that medium means that prosecutors may need
to take steps more frequently and at an earlier stage of the proceedings to seek
suppression orders. In addition, historical information on the internet may raise issues
of contempt in the face of current proceedings, even though it did not raise such
concerns when posted. One example is information concerning prior convictions.
27. Where a prosecutor becomes aware of the existence on the internet of information
which may amount to contempt the prosecutor should consider drawing this to the
attention of the Court and the Solicitor-General.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CROWN PROSECUTORS AND
28. New Zealand Police frequently seek advice from Crown Law or Crown prosecutors
prior to the Crown assuming responsibility for the prosecution. Where that is the case,
prosecutors should assist Police to observe the law of contempt and deal with the
media in a way which protects fair trial rights.
29. When the Solicitor-General assumes responsibility for a Crown prosecution and until
sentencing is completed, a prosecution is in the hands of the Crown Solicitor. The
prosecutor is likely to be held responsible for any media comments by the prosecution
or Police. Any media queries should therefore be considered in consultation with the
prosecutor and decisions made about whether the prosecutor or the Police (Officer in
Charge) should respond. These situations will need to be managed on a case by case
basis depending on the nature of the query and the kind of information which is
30. New Zealand Police employees are required to act in accordance with this protocol.
They are also required to observe the general guidelines for communicating with the
media set out in the Police Manual. In relation to prosecutions, these include:
(a) Officers in charge of investigations and operations are required to avoid
making comment on an investigation/operation during pre-arrest interactions
with the media that could later be construed as being prejudicial to the case
when it goes to Court.
(b) Officers in charge of investigations and operations are required not to
comment on matters (other than procedural matters) that are still in the Court
process. This includes post conviction, pre and post sentencing and until any
appeals have been completed. Where matters are in the hands of Crown
Solicitors, officers in charge and operations should consult with the Crown
Solicitor (if possible) before comments are made.
(c) Officers are reminded to avoid any comment that could be construed as
criticism of judicial decisions.
CRIMINAL CONTEMPT OF COURT
31. In New Zealand the Solicitor-General, by convention, is primarily responsible for
prosecution at common law for criminal contempt of court. In practice it is usual for
the Solicitor-General to make the decision and personally prosecute the resulting
MEDIA PROTOCOL FOR
proceedings. When carrying out this function the focus is on conduct that is corrosive
of the criminal justice system as a whole.
32. When a question concerning the effect of media coverage on a trial is formally raised
with the Court, prosecutors are asked to advise the Solicitor-General. The Solicitor-
General will be interested to ensure that the immediate public interest in the
prosecution and in any future prosecution for contempt is adequately managed.
Cfr anche i provvedimenti del garante sull' "accanimento informativo" o "accanimento giornalistico": http://www.garanteprivacy.it/web/guest/home/ricerca?p_p_id=searchportlet_WAR_labcportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0
Es. caso Yara:. Doc-Web:3211210Data: 19/06/14
- Caso Yara: Garante privacy, basta accanimento informativo
Il Garante per la privacy ha per l'ennesima volta riscontrato la tendenza di numerose testate giornalistiche a diffondere informazioni e particolari - anche di natura sensibile e addirittura genetica - inerenti soggetti interessati soltanto indirettamente e marginalmente da vicende giudiziarie che hanno avuto una notevole eco nell'opinione pubblica.
L'Autorità ritiene assolutamente necessario richiamare tutti i mezzi di informazione al massimo rispetto del principio di essenzialità della notizia pubblicata - uno dei cardini del Codice della privacy e dello stesso Codice deontologico dei giornalisti - che comporta un'attenta, accurata e seria verifica preventiva riguardo alla reale indispensabilità della diffusione di dati personali relativi a soggetti coinvolti solo in via mediata dalle vicende di cronaca.
Neppure il rilevante interesse pubblico legittima l'accanimento informativo intorno agli aspetti più intimi della persona tale da determinare irreparabili danni nella vita familiare e di relazione.
Roma, 19 giugno 2014
Nella dimensione dimensione storica, qualifiche di xenofobia, razzismo, violenza ed antisemitismo sono intimamente connaturati e strutturalmente coessenziali alla ideologia nazista e fascista: dare dunque del razzista ad un fascista non è reato, dato che esrcitare il diritto di cronaca / diritto di critica esclude il carattere diffamatorio del fatto (sulla verità del fato che esclude la diffamazione v. Cass., 30/1/2013, n. 2190).
In tema di diffamazione a mezzo stampa, il diritto del soggetto a pretendere che proprie, passate vicende personali non siano pubblicamente rievocate (nella specie, il cd. diritto all'oblio era invocato in relazione ad un'antica militanza in bande terroristiche) trova limite nel diritto di cronaca solo quando sussista un interesse effettivo ed attuale alla loro diffusione, nel senso che quanto recentemente accaduto (nella specie, il ritrovamento di un arsenale di armi nella zona di residenza dell'ex terrorista) trovi diretto collegamento con quelle vicende stesse e ne rinnovi l'attualità, diversamente risolvendosi il pubblico ed improprio collegamento tra le due informazioni in un'illecita lesione del diritto alla riservatezza.
La lesione dell'onore e della reputazione altrui non si verifica quando la diffusione a mezzo stampa delle notizie costituisce legittimo esercizio del diritto di cronaca, condizionato all'esistenza dei seguenti presupposti: la verità oggettiva o anche solo putativa dei fatti riferiti, purché frutto di un serio e diligente lavoro di ricerca, tenuto conto della gravità della notizia pubblicata; l'interesse pubblico alla conoscenza del fatto (c.d. pertinenza); la correttezza formale dell'esposizione (c.d. continenza).
Argomenti più frequenti
stupefacenti art. 73 coltivazione libera manifestazione del pensiero diritto di cronaca diffamazione art. 21 diritto di critica condanna penale divieto di espatrio reati tributari diritto penale tributario facebook casapound fascismo molestie art. 660 c.p. saluto romano intervista presunzioni
Inalterata nel tempo la esigenza di tutela delle istituzione democratiche, è legittima l'incriminazione di condotte che risultino possibili e concreti antecedenti causali di ciò che resta costituzionalmente inibito, ossia la riorganizzazione del disciolto partito fascista, e ciò in relazione alle modalità di realizzazione delle stesse (pubblicità delle condotte).
La bacheca del profilo Facebook è - ai sensi della legge penale - luogo aperto al pubblico e quindi è configurabile la molestia "virtuale".
Le tre regole per escludere la responsabilità del giornalista nel caso di diffusione di notizie consistenti in fatti od opinioni riferiti da altri (cd. "responsabilità del diffusore mediatico").
Le presunzioni legali previste dalle norme tributarie non possono costituire di per sé fonte di prova della commissione del reato, assumendo esclusivamente il valore di dati di fatto, che devono essere valutati liberamente dal giudice penale unitamente ad elementi di riscontro che diano certezza dell'esistenza della condotta criminosa.
Non sussiste il reato tributario se il mancato pagamento del debito erariale dipende da per cause indipendenti dalla volontà e quindi non imputabili all'imputato: non deve essere stato possibile per il contribuente reperire le risorse necessarie a consentirgli il corretto e puntuale adempimento delle obbligazioni tributarie, pur avendo posto in essere tutte le possibili azioni, anche sfavorevoli per il suo patrimonio personale, dirette a consentirgli di recuperare, in presenza di un'improvvisa crisi di liquidità, quelle somme necessarie ad assolvere il debito.