The applicant, Mr. Campbell, was serving prison sentence. Some of the correspondence he exchanged with his lawyer, including the correspondence with the European Commission of Human Rights, had been opened and read by the prison authorities before they were delivered to the addressee.
Mr. Campbell complained that the fact that prison authorities opened his correspondence with his lawyer and the Commission violated his right to respect for the correspondence.
The Court recognized that some measure of control over prisoners’ correspondence is necessary and is not of itself incompatible with the Convention, regard being paid to the ordinary and reasonable requirements of imprisonment. In assessing the permissible extent of such control in general, it should be taken into account that the opportunity to write and to receive letters is sometimes the prisoner’s only link with the outside world.
The Court found, however, that because of the relationship between a lawyer and his/her client all the correspondence between them, whatever its purpose, must be considered confidential. This means that the prison authorities may open a letter from a lawyer to a prisoner only when they have reasonable cause to believe that it contains an illicit enclosure which the normal means of detection have failed to disclose. These letters can only be opened and should not be read. There should also be suitable guarantees to make sure the letters are not read, e.g. opening the letter in the presence of the prisoner. The reading of a prisoner’s mail to and from a lawyer should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances when the authorities have reasonable cause to believe that the privilege is being abused in that the contents of the letter endanger prison security or the safety of others or are otherwise of a criminal nature.
As in the present case the Court could not find any reason why for opening the applicant’s correspondence with his lawyer therefore it found a violation his right to respect for his correspondence.