Liability and Sanctions

Steel and Morris v United Kingdom (decision), 22 October 2002 [ECtHR]

Case no 68416/01

The applicants submit that the national authorities violated their right to freedom of association, protected by Article 11 of the Convention ...
The applicants contend that the domestic courts in effect held them responsible for the publication of the defamatory statements simply by virtue of their association with London Greenpeace, without clear evidence of their individual participation in the factsheet’s production or distribution. They reason that, in order to avoid liability for publication, they would have had to avoid participation in any protest, action or campaign against McDonald’s and avoided attending London Greenpeace meetings.

The Court recalls that it is not within its province to substitute its own assessment of the facts for that of the domestic courts and, as a general rule, it is for these courts to assess the evidence before them (see the Edwards v. the United Kingdom judgment of 16 December 1992, Series A no. 247-B, § 34). The question whether the applicants “published” the factsheet was a question of fact for the trial judge, which McDonald’s had to prove on the balance of probabilities. Having heard all the evidence, the judge concluded that the applicants “caused, procured, authorised, concurred in and approved” publication of the leaflet.

The applicants did not, therefore, suffer any sanction in respect of their association with London Greenpeace as such. It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 and must be declared inadmissible in accordance with Article 35 § 4.

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Members - Belonging or supporting an illegal organization Liability of members Sanctions NGO - Suspension of activities Members - Breach of fax regulation Members - Defamatory publication Members - Breach of rules on statements to press Members - Loss of parliament any seats following party's dissolution Officials - Failure to annul memberships Officials - participation in unlawful meeting NGO - Listing as terrorist organisation