ECHR condemns France for the misuse of police files

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On 18 September, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned France after a French citizen complained his data had been wrongly filed in the police's Confirmed Offence Processing System (Système de Traitement des Infraction Constatées, STIC), even though he was never convicted.

His information was wrongly filed in the STIC after his partner lodged a complaint following an argument. The latter withdrew her complaint at a later stage but Mr. Brunet's data was never deleted from STIC.

Data stored in STIC includes: the person's identity, family situation, address, family ties, occupation, photograph, the reason for the inquiry. Information is held for at least 20 years, more in the case of a serious offence.

In December 2013, the STIC was merged with a Gendarmerie file called JUDEX, in one single database called TAJ – Judicial File Processing (Traitement des Antécédents Judiciaires). At the time of its establishment, TAJ already had 12.2 million people registered including victims of crime and people accused (but not convicted) of a criminal offence.

Acording to an assessment undertaken by the National Information and Liberties Commission (CNIL) in 2012, 40% of these files are erroneous and should be deleted.

In 2012 the police force accessed the TAJ alone as many as 11 million times. In the same year the gendarme force accessed the JUDEX system some 15 million times.

According to the CNIL: "One million people need a [criminal record] certificate to work. If their information is filed in STIC, they can be denied an employment opportunity."

The ECHR considered that being filed in STIC was significantly intrusive. It found that Mr Brunet's data was stored in the STIC for a disproportionate period of time, and France was ordered to pay Mr Brunet 3000 euros.

France has set up a number of police databases over the years. Many of them have been established with no real legal basis, and instead 'legalised' at a later stage by the administration. For example, STIC was formally created in 2001 but has been in use since the 1990s.

The French Observatory on Digital Liberties has denounced the "mass police filing" and has called for the urgent reform of the filing system in France, to significantly reduce the storage period and prohibit the storage of data of non-convicted persons. Finally, the Observatory called for the deletion of data whenever necessary.



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