Human Rights Guide


Campbell v. the United Kingdom

(Prisons – Correspondence with international organizations)
European Court of Human Rights
25 March 1992


The applicant, Mr. Campbell, was serving prison sentence. Some of the incoming correspondence - the letters he received from the European Commission of Human Rights (the Court) - had been opened by the prison authorities before Mr. Campbell received them.


Mr. Campbell complained that the fact that prison authorities opened his correspondence with the Court violated his right to respect for his correspondence.

Court's ruling

The Court emphasized that the practice of opening letters from the Court, whether or not they were read, amounted to an interference with Mr. Campbell’s right to respect for his correspondence. It further pointed that although the interference was prescribed by national law and it had a legitimate aim - the prevention of disorder or crime – the Court could not see how the opening of the letters from it could contribute to achieving this aim. In Court’s view, the risk of Court’s stationery being forged in order to smuggle prohibited material or messages into prison, was so negligible that it had to be discounted. Additionally, the contents of the letters, if known to prison officers, may have created the risk of reprisals by the prison staff against the prisoner concerned. Thus, the interference with the applicant’s correspondence was not necessary in democratic society and there was a violation of  his right to respect for his correspondence.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education