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Intervention concerning court case lists

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has addressed the Inspector General for the Protection of Personal Data on the issue of entering personal data in case lists displayed in courts. The HFHR requests the IGPPD to consider bringing this problem to the attention of the Minister of Justice.

The content of a case list used in ordinary courts is governed by the Administrative Order of the Justice Minister on the organisation and scope of work of court registry offices. The Order defines what information may be entered in case lists. This includes, name and surname of the parties to the proceedings, subject-matter of the lawsuit and legal classification of the offence imputed to the accused.

The information on the participants in the proceedings contained in case lists is undoubtedly personal data within the meaning of the Personal Data Protection Act. “In our view the content of case lists should be regulated under universally applicable legislation, that is the Courts Act or a regulation issued under a statute”, explains Barbara Grabowska, a lawyer with the HFHR.

In its address the HFHR pointed out that the open court rule is one of basic principles of court proceedings. However, it is reasonable to consider making minor exceptions in respect of court case lists, for instance by entering only the first letter of a person’s surname or only initials.

Further, the HFHR also indicates the need to introduce exceptions ensuring anonymity of participants’ data in certain types of court proceedings.

In the current legal landscape personal data of participants in the proceedings are entered in case lists along with the subject matter of the litigation for all types of proceedings, irrespective of the intention of the participants. “The practice shows that in many cases this may lead to stigmatisation of participants or even to what is called ‘secondary victimisation’”, says Michał Szwast, a lawyer with the HFHR.

The problem may involve not only certain criminal proceedings (e.g. relating to crimes against sexual freedom of minors or rape) but also civil cases (such as those concerning incapacitation, denial of paternity or maternity) and proceedings under the Mental Health Protection Act.

Proceedings of this type are so socially sensitive that the need to protect privacy of their participants, including the parcipant’s right not to disclose information about their health, should take precedence over the principle of public access to case lists.

“In our opinion the issue of the information included on case lists should be regulated by a universally applicable legislation because disclosure of such information interferes with the human right not to have ones personal data disclosed without the statutory authorisation. Also we advocate exceptions to the principle of full disclosure to ensure anonymity of participants in the specific types of socially sensitive proceedings”, reads the address.

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