European Court of Human Rights
26 September 1995

Facts

The applicant, Dr. Diennet, was disqualified from practising medicine for three years because of medical malpractice. The proceedings had been held in private before the professional bodies dealing with the case in substance. The hearing before Conseil d’Etat – the Supreme Administrative court of France dealing with appeal on points of law was held in public.

Complaint

Dr. Diennet alleged a violation of the right to a hearing in public.

Court's ruling

The Court reiterated that the holding of court hearings in public constitutes a fundamental principle of the right to fair trial. By rendering the administration of justice transparent, publicity contributes to the achievement of the aim of Article 6 (1), namely a fair trial, the guarantee of which is one of the fundamental principles of any democratic society. However, the right of public hearing is not absolute and can be limited, for example, if it is needed to protect professional confidentiality and the private lives of patients. Nevertheless, such necessity must be strictly required by the circumstances of the case. The Court found in the particular case that it was not likely that any confidential data would be mentioned in the hearing as the national court dealt with the applicant’s method of consulting by correspondence. The fact that there was a public hearing before Conseil d’Etat could not remedy the absence of public hearing before the professional body, because it did not consider the case in substance and dealt only with points of law. Therefore it could not be deemed to have full jurisdiction. Accordingly the Court found a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial.

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