Summary penalty orders and other orders

The principle of freedom of information not only guarantees proper and lawful treatment for parties to criminal proceedings, but also allows the general public to follow the proceedings.

Official public notice must be given of a judgment in a criminal case unless it is given at a public hearing. This applies to summary penalty orders and abandonment of proceedings and no-proceedings orders from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), because these are issued directly by the OAG and not as part of a criminal trial.

However, freedom of information does not mean that persons who are not parties to the proceedings have an unrestricted right of access to all summary penalty orders or abandonment and no-proceedings orders issued by the OAG. The interest of the person requesting access must in each case be weighed against any special interests of the judicial authorities or third parties concerned in preserving secrecy. Requests for access cannot be allowed to jeopardise the smooth running of the criminal justice system.

The OAG assesses each request. If there are special interests in preserving secrecy that outweigh the right to access, the applicant will be notified of this in the application process. 

Summary penalty orders

The summary penalty orders issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland are freely accessible. There is no need to claim any special interest in having access. 

However, please note that special rules apply to access to files relating to jihadist terrorism (for further information, see the end of this page).

Abandonment of proceedings orders

When assessing requests for access, the OAG distinguishes between two categories of no proceedings orders: 

  1. Abandonment orders in cases where the suspect denies any criminal conduct or in cases under Article 53 SCC where the suspect expressly accepts responsibility for a violation of legal rights but makes reparation. These abandonment orders are therefore equivalent to a judgment and must in principle be made public.

  2. Abandonment orders in cases in which the veracity of an allegation of criminal conduct is not tested (because for example of a failure to meet a procedural requirement during the criminal proceedings (Art. 319, par. 1, lit. d CrimPC)). For access to this second category of abandonment orders, the applicant must demonstrate that they have a legitimate interest in the information or explain why access is required. 

According to Federal Supreme Court case law, journalists do not have to demonstrate a legitimate interest in information. They are therefore entitled to access to any abandonment orders issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, unless access would be contrary to overriding public or private interests. 

No-proceedings orders

Applicants seeking access to no-proceedings orders must demonstrate a legitimate interest in the information or explain why access is required. 

According to Federal Supreme Court case law, journalists do not have to demonstrate a legitimate interest in information. They are therefore entitled to access any no-proceedings orders issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, unless access would be contrary to overriding public or private interests. 

For journalists or applicants who can demonstrate a legitimate interest in the information, the following conditions apply to access to no-proceedings orders. 

Special rules for summary penalty orders and orders related to terrorist cases