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Secret filming of a child in a bathroom and the reform of privacy laws

Söderman v. Sweden  | 2013

Secret filming of a child in a bathroom and the reform of privacy laws

I believe in the rule of law again. This means so much to me. Now I can move on in life.

 Eliza Söderman after the verdict of the European court, as reported by GP

Background

Eliza Söderman was 14 years old when she found out that her stepfather had hidden a video camera in the laundry basket of their bathroom. It was in recording mode and directed towards the spot where she had undressed before taking a shower.

After the incident was reported to the police, Ms Söderman’s stepfather was charged with sexual molestation. However, he was ultimately acquitted. According to the Swedish courts, filming a person without their consent was not explicitly a crime under Swedish law.

Ms Söderman complained that Swedish law had not properly protected her privacy.  

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg court found that the act committed by Ms Söderman’s stepfather had violated Eliza’s integrity. This was aggravated by the fact that she was a child, the incident took place in her home, and the offender was a person that she was entitled to trust. However, Swedish law had not provided Ms Söderman with adequate protection. Her stepfather’s actions had not been criminalised, and there were no legal grounds for her to claim damages.

The European court therefore found that Ms Söderman ‘s right to private life had been violated.

…now the law has changed. People who do this won’t go free anymore.

Eliza Söderman, as reported by GP

Follow-up

The Strasbourg court ruled on the case on two occasions: first at chamber level in June 2012, and then on appeal in the Grand Chamber in November 2013.

Whilst the case was still under appeal in Strasbourg, Swedish law was changed. As of 1 July 2013, a new provision on so-called ‘intrusive photography’ was made law. In certain circumstances, this criminalises the secret filming of people in private places, such as bathrooms and changing rooms, without their permission.