A Swiss woman has had her conviction upheld for reading her husband’s emails, in which she discovered details of various extramarital affairs.
The woman, who was not named in local Swiss media reports, was charged with unauthorised intrusion into her husband’s data after temptation got the better of her to log in to a new email account he had created on their shared computer.
The couple shared many passwords and had noted some of them down next to the computer, the court heard, according to the Aargauer Zeitung newspaper.
“He had been in contact with several women for a long time. I confronted him with his affairs, and he moved out of our flat relatively quickly,” the unnamed woman from Aargau, in northern Switzerland, said in a court hearing. “My trust in him was gone. We did not talk to each other anymore.”
The original charges were brought in February this year when she was convicted in Muri and handed a 9,900 franc (£7,500) fine, suspended on the condition of no further offences in the next two years, and a 4,300 franc (£3,250) fine to cover police costs.
The prosecutor said the woman intentionally and repeatedly invaded her husband’s account and downloaded material that was not her own. The computer, an external hard drive and a USB stick were confiscated.
On appeal to a district court, the defence argued for the woman’s acquittal, saying that the defendant had not technically “hacked” into her husband’s account, given she already knew his password.
However, her search history revealed that she had checked beforehand whether it was an offence to read the emails, which, the prosecution argued, demonstrated her awareness of the potential illegality of her actions.
The court upheld the conviction on the grounds that reading password-protected data without the account owner’s permission is illegal under Article 145 of the Swiss criminal code and punishable with a fine or up to three years in prison.
Nonetheless, it significantly reduced the suspended financial penalty from 9,900 francs to 1500 francs (£1150) because the woman merely had to “exploit her husband’s carelessness” and thus exert “minimal criminal energy” to gain access to the information.