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Court of Appeal stresses need for specific justification where there is interference with Article 8 rights

In R (on the application of Catt) and (1) Association of Chief Police Officers (2) Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis; R (on the application of T) and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2013] EWCA Civ 192, the Court of Appeal considered two cases concerning the retention of personal data by the police.

The first appellant argued that the polices decision to keep written and photographic reports of him, concerning his involvement with a particular campaign group, on the National Domestic Extremism Database, in spite of the fact that he had never been convicted of any criminal offence, amounted to an interference with his right to private life under Article 8(1) ECHR. The second appellant also contended an interference with her rights under Article 8(1) ECHR, in her case relating to the polices stated intention to retain a copy of a ˜harassment warning letter (issued to her in the absence of any finding against her or admission on her part) on their records for 12 years. In both cases, the decision at first instance had been that the police decisions were justifiable under Article 8(2) as they served legitimate purposes.

In allowing both appeals, the Court of Appeal held that the retention of the Claimants data did amount to an interference with their Article 8 rights and that interference could not be justified on the facts of either case. In respect of the first appellant, the police had failed to show that the information relating specifically to the appellant was of significant value to their wider aims relating to the campaign group (and therefore the public interest). In respect of the second appellant, there was justification for retaining a copy of the letter for a limited period because it may help to demonstrate a course of conduct amounting to harassment. However, the Court was unable to see how this justification could prevail for longer than a year.

The wider point arising from both decisions is that the Courts will be minded to uphold Article 8 rights where the interference is systematic rather than justified on specific grounds.


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