The mere image of an accused person in handcuffs and on transport restraint cord does not violate the presumption of innocence.29 November 2017
Although during criminal procedures the authorities must pay respect to the affected person’s right to the presumption of innocence, this shall not affect the freedom of the press. Attaching to the press report an illustration showing the affected person in handcuffs and on a transport restraint cord before the delivery of the final judgement shall not be contrary to the Fundamental Law.
The prosecution service brought a charge against the petitioner, the former mayor of the 7th district, György Hunvald and his companions because of the probable cause of committing several criminal offences. The internet portals operated by the defendants published reports about the ongoing criminal procedure. The petitioner can be seen without masking on the pictures used as an illustration of the reports, depicting him walking along the corridor of the court accompanied by a prison guard leading him on a transport restraint cord and in handcuffs, with the cord and the handcuffs slightly visible on the picture. The petitioner requested the court to establish: by using the photos taken without his consent, the defendants violated his personality right to the protection of his image. As laid down in the Curia’s judgement: the right to report about an event challenging public interest enjoys priority over the petitioner’s right to the protection of his image. The petitioner filed a constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court, asking for the annulment of the Curia’s judgement, by referring to being in conflict with the Fundamental Law. In his opinion, the fact that the illustration shows him in handcuffs and being lead on a transport restraint cord before the delivery of the final judgement generates an appearance of him being guilty.
The Constitutional Court underlined in its decision – based also on the judicial practice of the European Court of Human Rights –: the disclosure of information about a criminal case affecting the wide scope of the society falls under the freedom of the press. The mere application of coercive measures during the criminal procedure does not violate the presumption of innocence. In the present case, the arrest of the petitioner in pre-trial detention is a publicly known fact. The physical coercive tool was applied against the petitioner in the context of his pre-trial detention. There is no ground to allage that this has been applied against him with the purpose of depicting the petitioner guilty to the public.
Based on the above arguments, the Constitutional Court established that the judicial decision challenged with the petition was not in conflict with the Fundamental Law, therefore it has rejected the constitutional complaint. The full text of the decision of the Constitutional Court is available in Hungarian on the Constitutional Court’s website.
Budapest, 22 November 2017