Publication of a judgement convicting and sentencing persons guilty of certain crimes against public health and against the economy
Publication of judgement
Principle of proportionality
RULING Nº 520/2000
29 of November of 2000
The principle of equality does not prohibit the legislature from adopting different legislative solutions for situations that appear to be identical. It stipulates that things which are essentially equal should be treated in the same way and that things which are essentially different should be treated in different ways. It prohibits only arbitrary legislation, i.e. the adoption of arbitrary or discriminatory legal measures, which are unreasonable and have no material or rational justification.
In the field in question - economic crime, which damages important collective interests and causes a high level of non-pecuniary and material damage - it should be recognised that the publication in newspapers or through legal notices of convictions for crimes against public health doubtless helps to meet the community's expectations as to the validity and enforcement of the rule that has been infringed, and therefore helps to improve the community's awareness of the law and feeling of security.
The obligation to publish judgments which convict a person of committing a crime against public health, and specifically against food authenticity, quality or composition, is neither arbitrary nor discriminatory. Offences of the same type are equal before the law. The level of non-pecuniary and material damage caused by economic crime is very high and such crime damages important collective interests.
In this field, the legislature's freedom may be limited only when the penalty is clearly excessive. Given that the legislation in question is not arbitrary, the ancillary penalty of publication of the sentence is appropriate and necessary.
Since the conviction is announced publicly at the end of a judgment, which is also public, it is difficult to see how publication of the judgment could constitute a violation of the right to privacy. It is a special form of publicity that is being called into question. However, such publicity is legitimate on account of the need to fight this type of crime and is justified constitutionally by the requirement of justice imposed by the principle of the rule of law in this regard.
Concerning the right to a reputation, it is the criminal conduct of accused persons which actually damages that right. Moreover, the publicity of this "dishonour" - which publication of the sentence nonetheless implies - is justified by the need to fight this type of crime.
The judgment confirms the Court's case law, which found that another provision in the same legislative sphere - which defines, in identical terms, the economic crime of fraud relating to subsidies - was unconstitutional.