Portugal / Constitutional Court / 420/2017 Public Prosecutor’s appeal against the decision of the Lower Court

Key facts of the case: 

In this case, the Public Prosecutor's Office requested an authorisation for the transmission of identification data of a user suspect of committing the crime of child pornography. The Court of First Instance rejected this request, invoking the unconstitutionality of Article 6 of the Law 32/2008, of 17 July. This Law transposes Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks into national law. The Court of First Instance did not apply (on the basis of its unconstitutionality) the rule of Article 6 of the Law 32/2008, which establishes the obligation to keep data for a period of one year from the date of completion of the communication, specifically the name and address of the subscriber or registered user to whom the IP protocol address was assigned at the time of the communication (basic data or metadata). The First Court’s decision concluded on the unconstitutionality of that norm on the grounds of the infringement of principles of inviolability of home and privacy of correspondence. That decision was also based on Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 8 April 2014 on two references for a preliminary ruling from Ireland and Austria, which ruled in the sense of the invalidity of the above mentioned Directive. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has appealed against this decision of the Lower Court.

Outcome of the case:

The Constitutional Court emphasized that the declaration of invalidity of a directive does not have an automatic consequence on the validity of a national law transposing it. The Constitutional Court observed, first, that the judgment of the Court of Justice does not refer precisely to the basic data. On the other hand, the national law transposing the Directive went much further than the Directive, finding solutions which answered the reservations and doubts of the Court of Justice. It is possible to review the validity of this law in the light of the relevant parameters of international law, such as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, European Union law, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and national law, such as the Constitution. In view of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court considered that the rule allowing the retention of the data in question does not constitute a disproportionate restriction on the right to privacy. The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the Public Prosecutor's Office, and did not consider Article 6 of the Law 32/2008, of 17 July, unconstitutional. According to this conclusion, the Constitutional Court ordered the revocation of the First Court’s decision, allowing the transmission of the information requested by the Public Prosecutor’Office. 

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

The Court decision which rejected the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office for the transmission of identification data of a user to whom a IP protocol address was assigned was based on the unconstitutionality of Article 6 of Law 32/2008, by reference to article 4 of the same law. This unconstitutionality is supported by the invocation of the judgment of the Court of Justice Digital Rights Ireland (Proc. C-293/12 and C-594/12) declaring the invalidity of Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006. (...) This legislative act was transposed into the legal order of the Portuguese Republic by Law 32/2008, of 17 July, which includes the norm that is being discussed in this case.

The decision [of the lower Court] considered that most of the considerations made by the Court of Justice would be applied to an assessment of Law 32/2008.

(...)

The decision [of the lower Court] considers that 'the retention of data is determined by Law 32/2008 with the same breadth, generality, injustice, lack of prior control concerning data insertion, excessive duration, and disproportionality, resulting from the Directive'. (…) This would probably result in the contradiction of the legal regime established by Law 32/2008, specifically Article 6, with the provisions of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in parallel with that referred to in the judgment of the Court of Justice of 8 April 2014.

(…)

However, these considerations do not prevent the validity of this Law from being checked in the light of the applicable parameters, namely of international law, such as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, European Union law, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and national law, such as the Constitution.

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language): 

O despacho de 19 de outubro de 2016 que indeferiu o pedido do Ministério Público de autorização de transmissão dos dados de identificação de um utilizador a quem estava atribuído um determinado endereço de protocolo IP teve como fundamento a inconstitucionalidade do artigo 6.º da Lei n.º 32/2008, por referência ao artigo 4.º da mesma lei. Essa inconstitucionalidade é sustentada através da invocação do Acórdão do Tribunal de Justiça Digital Rights Ireland (Proc. n.º C-293/12 e C-594/12) que declarou a invalidade da Diretiva n.º 2006/24/CE, do Parlamento Europeu e do Conselho, de 15 de março de 2006. (…) Este ato normativo foi transposto para a ordem jurídica da República Portuguesa pela Lei n.º 32/2008, de 17 de julho, diploma onde se insere a norma objeto do presente processo.

No despacho considera-se que a maioria das considerações do Tribunal de Justiça seria aplicável a uma apreciação da Lei n.º 32/2008.

(…)

Considera, por isso, que «a conservação de dados é determinada na Lei n.º 32/2008 com a mesma amplitude, generalidade, injustificação, ausência de controle prévio na inserção de dados e duração excessiva, de forma desproporcionada, que resultavam da Diretiva». Daqui decorreria «a contrariedade (…) do regime legal instituído pela Lei n.º 32/2008, especificamente do seu artigo 6.º, com o disposto no artigo 8.º da Convenção Europeia dos Direitos do Homem e nos artigos 7.º e 8.º da Carta dos Direitos Fundamentais da União Europeia, de forma paralela ao referido no Acórdão do Tribunal de Justiça (…) de 8 de abril de 2014”.

(…)

Tais considerações não impedem, no entanto, que se proceda à fiscalização da validade dessa Lei à luz dos parâmetros aplicáveis, nomeadamente de Direito Internacional, previstos na Convenção Europeia para a Proteção dos Direitos do Homem e das Liberdades Fundamentais, de Direito da União Europeia, consagrados na Carta dos Direitos Fundamentais da União Europeia, ou de direito nacional, decorrentes da Constituição.

Language: 
Portuguese
Deciding body (original language): 
Tribunal Constitucional
Language: 
Portuguese