What does the law say about invasion of privacy and sexual assault?
Article 39 quinquies of the French Freedom of the Press Act of 1881 provides for a special procedure for persons who believe they have been the victims of revelations in a newspaper or other medium.
Under this article, the person can ask the judge to order the author of the article to pay a fine and damages (civil action adjoining the public action) without having to prove the damage suffered. The amount of damages is determined by the judge according to the circumstances of the case.
It should be noted that this procedure is only available for acts committed through the press, and not for other types of disclosure such as oral disclosure.
The press procedure is a special and criminal procedure governed by the short statute of limitations of three months.
Under press law, legal persons cannot be held criminally liable, but they can be sued for damages (civil liability) incurred by their employees.
Article 9 of the Civil Code on the protection of privacy allows for a civil liability claim for damages (five-year limitation period).
Other criminal or civil qualifications can be sought: articles 226-1 and following of the penal code;
In criminal matters (excluding press law), companies can be held liable, and the fine incurred is 5 times that incurred for natural persons.
Criminal or civil proceedings?
Criminal prosecution (public action) allows the police to be called in to identify the perpetrators; the public action escapes the prosecuting party, except in the case of the press, where a transaction allows the action to be extinguished.
Civil proceedings are aimed at obtaining damages and can be conducted independently of public proceedings, except for certain offences.
Short circuit or long circuit?
The short circuit is preferred in cases where speed is required. The "accelerated procedure on the merits" allows action to be taken on internet content.
Privacy' or 'press' basis?
The press procedure is entrapment, subject to a short statute of limitations, and is necessary for press offences.
Invasion of privacy is not a 'press offence' but the opponent will tend to show otherwise.
The Press Act (39 quinquies of the amended 1881 Act, cited below) provides for a fine of EUR 15,000 against a weak individual.
Article 39 quinquies Version in force since 01 January 2002
Modified by Ordinance n°2000-916 of 19 September 2000 - art. 3 (V) JORF 22 September 2000 in force on 1 January 2002
Disseminating, by any means and through any medium, information concerning the identity of a victim of sexual assault or abuse or the image of such a victim when identifiable is punishable by a fine of
The provisions of this Article shall not apply where the victim has given written consent.
These provisions are mainly justified by taking into account the interests of the victim. Therefore, publications mentioning the identity of the latter are authorised subject to written agreement (L. 29 July 1881, Art. 39 quinquies, para. 2, same text).
. - Articulation between Article 39 quinquies of the Law of 29 July 1881 and Article 9 of the Civil Code
It follows from the combination of Article 39 quinquies of the Law of 29 July 1881 and Article 9 of the Civil Code that, while the dissemination of the identity of a person and the sexual nature of the crimes or offences of which he or she was a victim is prosecuted on the basis of Article 39 quinquies of the Law of 29 July 1881, the disclosure, without the consent of the person concerned, of information relating to the precise circumstances in which these offences were committed is a separate act constituting an invasion of his or her privacy, the disclosure, without the consent of the person concerned, of information relating to the precise circumstances in which these offences were committed is a distinct fact constituting an infringement of his or her privacy, which may be punished on the basis of Article 9 of the Civil Code (Cass. 1st Civ, 9 September 2020, n° 19-16.415: JurisData n° 2020- 012860).
Is compensation possible?
In general, damages for attempted invasion of privacy and for the identification of victims of sexual harassment will vary according to the particular circumstances of each case. However, some general principles that may apply are
- Attempted invasion of privacy: If someone attempts to invade another person's privacy, but is unsuccessful, the victim may still be entitled to damages. These damages may include compensation for emotional distress and mental anguish, as well as any other harm caused by the attempt. The exact amount of damages will depend on the seriousness of the attempted invasion of privacy and the harm suffered by the victim.
- Identification of victims of sexual harassment: If someone reveals the identity of a victim of sexual harassment, the victim may be entitled to damages. These damages may include compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish and any harm caused by the disclosure of their identity, such as damage to their reputation or loss of earnings. The exact amount of damages will depend on the severity of the harm caused by the disclosure and the particular circumstances of the case.
It is important to note that damages for attempted invasion of privacy or identification of victims of sexual harassment may vary depending on the jurisdiction and laws applicable to the case.
It is advisable to consult a lawyer specialising in press, media and internet law in Paris to determine your legal rights and options. Roquefeuil Avocats will assist you.
See as well :
Right to be forgotten, privacy, Roquefeuil Avocats can help you