S v. Switzerland

European Court of Human Rights
28 November 1991


The applicant, Mr. S., was detained on remand. Almost all his meetings with his lawyer took place in the presence of a police officer who sometimes took notes. On some occasions the meetings were cut short. Mr.S. also did not receive some of the documents sent by his lawyer. 


The applicant complained that surveillance measures imposed on the communication with his lawyer violated his right to a fair trial, in particular right to defence though legal assistance. 

Court’s ruling

The Court considered that an accused’s right to communicate with his advocate out of hearing of a third person is part of the basic requirements of a fair trial in democratic society. The Court noted that if a lawyer were unable to confer with his client and receive confidential instructions from him without such surveillance, his assistance would lose much of its usefulness. 

In the particular case the Court found no reasons why the meetings between the applicant and his lawyer should had been placed under surveillance – neither the previous actions of the applicant, nor those of his lawyer indicated that there was a risk of illegal collusion or other illegal activities. Therefore the Court ruled that there has been a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial.

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Last updated 18/11/2023