Man's 'human rights breached' over PSNI 'surveillance' of lawyer conversations

27 October 2015

A man from Northern Ireland has won a landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights. The claimant, known only as RE after being granted anonymity by the court, alleged that the PSNI breached his right to privacy by listening to conversations he had with his lawyer. RE was arrested three times over the murder of a police officer between March 2009 and May 2010. Dissident republicans were blamed for the killing. During the first two detentions, his solicitor received assurances from the PSNI that his conversations with RE would not be subject to covert surveillance. During the third arrest, the PSNI refused to grant the same assurances. RE, who was born in 1989 and from Newtownabbey, County Antrim, was released without charge on 8 May 2010, but lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in October 2011. Covert surveillance He claimed that his human rights had been breached. Relying on Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to "respect for private and family life, home and correspondence", RE challenged the UK's Covert Surveillance Code of Conduct. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the Northern Ireland man, and unanimously held that there had been a violation of his human rights. The court considered that the surveillance of the man's consultation with his lawyer constituted an "extremely high degree of intrusion" into a person's right to respect for his or her private life and correspondence. Furthermore, the court was not satisfied that the relevant domestic law provisions in place at the time of the arrest provided sufficient safeguards for the protection of RE's conversations with his lawyers. A spokesperson for the European Court of Human Rights, said: "As far as we are aware this is the ECHR's first chamber judgment concerning the covert surveillance of detainees under Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act."