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Handyside v UK, ECtHR Judgment of 1976

[1979] 1 EHRR 737

Case summary last updated at 05/01/2020 19:18 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Handyside v UK, ECtHR Judgment of 1976

Case before European Court of Human Rights. D produced a book that was banned under Obscene Publications Act in England. D claimed a breach of his convention right of freedom of expression under article 10. However the court, by 13-1 ruled that the ban was 'necessary in a democratic society … for the protection of morals' under Article 10 (2) i.e. using the qualification to article 10 to show that the ban was acceptable. “Necessary” was taken to refer to “pressing social need”, and was NOT synonymous with “indispensable”. The convention had given national legislators a “margin of appreciation” with regard to convention rights.
 
Court’s judgment: “it is not possible to find in the domestic law of the various Contracting States a uniform European conception of morals. The view taken by their respective laws of the requirements of morals varies from time to time and from place to place, especially in our era which is characterised by a rapid and far-reaching evolution of opinions on the subject. By reason of their direct and continuous contact with the vital forces of their countries, State authorities are in principle in a better position than the international judge to give an opinion on the exact content of these requirements as well as on the 'necessity' of a 'restriction' or 'penalty' intended to meet them.”

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