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Sweden: Conviction Obtained Under New Law Banning Intrusive Photography

(Nov. 18, 2013) In May 2013 the Swedish government enacted a new piece of legislation that amends the Criminal Code by outlawing filming or taking photos in secret and making the crime punishable with up to two years in prison. (Betänkande 2012/2013:JuU21 Kränkande fotografering, Sveriges Riksdag [Swedish Parliament] website (May 29, 2013)). The law entered into effect on July 1, 2013. (Id.)

The legislation was a response to modern advances in technology, especially the increasing use of smartphones with built-in cameras, and it is intended to explicitly protect the privacy of Swedes in facilities such as bathrooms or changing rooms. (Kränkande fotografering [Intrusive Photography], Sveriges Riksdag website (July 13, 2013).)

The new provision of the Criminal Code, found in chapter 4, section 6a, provides that “he who, without permission, with technological aid, and in secret, documents on film or in photographs someone inside a home or in a toilet, a changing room, or another, similar facility, is to be sentenced for committing intrusive filming and given a fine or imprisonment of up to two years.” (Brottsbalk (1962:700) (Dec. 21, 1962, as amended through SFS 2013:425), Sveriges Riksdag website.) If, considering the purpose of the action and other circumstances, the action can be deemed justifiable, no conviction will be handed down. Furthermore, this form of restriction on photographic documentation does not apply to actions that are part of a government agency’s work. (Id.)

In October 2013 the first conviction under this new law was handed down. A 47-year-old man had filmed a woman taking a shower together with her young son in a closed camping shower. (Första domen om kränkande fotografering, 47-åring som smygfilmat duschande kvinna fälls, [First Conviction on Intrusive Photography, 47-YearOld Who Filmed Showering Women in Secret Convicted], DAGENS JURIDIK (Oct. 23, 2013).) The man had forced the camera underneath the walls that enclosed the shower and thus managed to film the mother and child. (Id.) He was sentenced to 80 days-worth of fines of SEK230 (totaling SEK18,400, about US$2,790) and to payment of damages of SEK7,000 (about US$1,053) to the woman. (Id.)

The court was cautious in its sentencing and took into consideration the fact that the crime had taken place shortly after the new law took effect. (Id.)