Video surveillance and private violence

The criminal division of the Italian Court of Cassation, with the judgment n. 20527 of 13 May 2019, ruled on criminal implications of video surveillance systems use.

The Court of Chieti condemned the two defendants of private violence pursuant to art. 610 c.p.[1] “consisted in installing on the perimeter wall of the respective homes remote controlled cameras for visual and sound recording, oriented to areas open to public transit, forcing the inhabitants of the area, and in particular the constituted civil parties, to tolerate being constantly observed and controlled in the performance of their work activities and in their movements”.

The Court of Appeal of L’Aquila, on appeal by the defendants, overturned the above sentence only for the treatment in punishment, restating the penalty to six months’imprisonment.

The two defendants did appeal against the judgment.

The Court of Cassation staded that the behavior of the defendants does not integrate the case of private violence: the Court considered that the crime of private violence is expected to protect the psychic autonomy of the individual and, then, that the requirement for violence identifies with any suitable means to compress the freedom of self-determination and action of the victim.

In the typical fact of the incriminating rule brought by the art. 610 c.p. only the behaviors that are concretely offensive to the legally protected right (such as freedom of self-determination of the victim) can fall under that art. 610 c.p. It is therefore a question of balancing individual freedoms and social security needs.

In this regard, a recent ruling by the Edu Court (C. Giust. EU case C-212/13 of 11.12.2014) stated that the video surveillance that extends to public space, that is installed by the private and directed outside its private sphere, an exclusively personal or domestic activity is illegitimate. However it can be considered lawful if, in the concrete case, there is a legitimate interest of the data controller to the protection of own assets such as health, own life or of his family, private property.

In conclusion, according to the Court of Cassation, the two defendants are not liable for the crime of private violence pursuant to art. 610 c.p. since their conduct did not compress the freedom of self-determination and the action of the inhabitants of the area, and also because, in the case at issue, there was a legitimate interest in the protection of defendants’assets (health, own life or family life, private property).

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[1] “Anyone, by using violence or threat, forces others to do, tolerate or omit something is punishable by imprisonment up to four years.

The penalty is increased if all circumstances, provided for in Article 339, are present”. Art. 610 c.p.