Phillips v the United Kingdom 41087/98 (2001) 11 BHRC 280 (Application no. 41087/98)

97. On a number of occasions, the Court has stated its understanding of the phrase “necessary in a democratic society”, the nature of its functions in the examination of issues turning on that phrase and the manner in which it will perform those functions. It suffices here to summarise certain principles:

(a) the adjective “necessary” is not synonymous with “indispensable”, neither has it the flexibility of such expressions as “admissible”, “ordinary”, “useful”, “reasonable” or “desirable” (see the Handyside judgment of 7 December 1976, Series A no. 24, p. 22, § 48);

(b) the Contracting States enjoy a certain but not unlimited margin of appreciation in the matter of the imposition of restrictions, but it is for the Court to give the final ruling on whether they are compatible with the Convention (ibid., p. 23, § 49);

(c) the phrase “necessary in a democratic society” means that, to be compatible with the Convention, the interference must, inter alia, correspond to a “pressing social need” and be “proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued” (ibid., pp. 22-23, §§ 48-49);

(d) those paragraphs of Articles of the Convention which provide for an exception to a right guaranteed are to be narrowly interpreted (see the above-mentioned Klass and others judgment, Series A no. 28, p. 21, § 42).

  • Proportionality of sentencing

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