What does it mean to have the right to respect of private and family life and when will this come into play?

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides general protection for a person’s private and family life, home and correspondence by the State.

Does this protection extend to the laws of England and Wales?

The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights exist under the laws of England and Wales due to them being given effect by the Human Rights Act 1998.

What areas of my life could be protected by Article 8 ECHR?

Article 8 ECHR affects a vast number of areas of life and can be used in claims against private surveillance of an individual’s home or even computer and extend to the area of sexual identity. The provisions contained in Article 8 have therefore been framed in as broad a way as possible.

Examples of areas of life which have been provided with protection by Article 8

Article 8 ECHR has been an extremely valuable tool in providing protection for the rights of homosexual people but has also been used in a much more general context to provide protection to an individual person’s home.

In what other contexts has Article 8 been used?

Article 8 has not simply been used to protect lifestyles or private aspects of people’s lives it can also be used in relation to environmental or planning contexts. For example if an unpleasant development has been carried out near your home you may be able to claim that this is an interference with Article 8 as it severely affects your enjoyment of your home.

If I claim a violation of my right to privacy will I always be able to be successful?

The right to respect for private and family life is not always a guaranteed right as it is a right which is qualified.

What does it mean if a right is qualified?

If a right is said to be qualified it will mean that an infringement of it is permissible in certain circumstances which can be justified and adhere to specific conditions.

In what circumstances will interference be permissible?

Any interference with your right to privacy and family life will be permissible if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • If an interference is in accordance with law

  • If an interference is in the interests of the legitimate objectives identified in Article 8(2)

  • If an interference is necessary in a democratic society

In accordance with law

When will an interference be in accordance with law?

An interference in relation to your right to private or family law will be in accordance with law if it has a proper legal basis – for example if it is provided for by state legislation or in the rules of a professional body.

Furthermore the rule or law must be understandable, detailed and clear to enable a person to regulate his or her behavior.

Often many interferences with the right to respect for private and family life of individuals falls foul of this first requirement to be in accordance with the law and are therefore seen as a restriction in breach of Article 8 – certain methods of police telephone tapping not provided for by statute have been a good example of this.

Legitimate Objectives

What are the legitimate objectives specified by Article 8(2)?

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For more information on:

  • Necessary in a democratic society
  • When will an interference be necessary in a democratic society?
  • How can an interference be proportionate?
  • What protection does the Human Rights Act give to Article 8 in England and Wales?
  • Public Authorities
  • What is the case in relation to private bodies and individuals?
  • Will something now not considered a violation of Article 8 always be the case?