Doughty Street Barristers in Landmark Privacy Victories in Court of Appeal

Four Doughty Street barristers, Paul Bowen QC, Martin Westgate QC, Ruth Brander and Conor McCarthy helped secure an important judgment in the Court of Appeal in two cases concerning the power of the police to collect and retain information of a personal nature relating to members of the public. In R (T) v. Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, the Claimant, represented by Paul Bowen QC and Ruth Brander, received a warning letter from the police following an allegation of harassment, which they subsequently stored on their database, together with the underlying allegations, for up to 12 years. In the second case, R (Catt) v. The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, the police collated information on Mr. Catt's involvement in public protests and stored this information on the National Extremism Database. Mr. Catt sought to have this information removed. Martin Westgate QC and Conor McCarthy intervened on behalf of Liberty.


In giving judgment the Court of Appeal provided important clarification as to the extent to which information, which is or was publicly available, may be retained and processed by the police. As regards Mr. Catt, the Court held that "the systematic collection, processing and retention on a searchable database of personal information, even of a relatively routine kind, involves a significant interference with the right to respect for private life". Similarly in T the Court held that the warning letter received by the Claimant "contained information of a personal kind, the systematic processing and retention of which will involve an unlawful interference with the right to respect for private life unless it can be justified". Considering the facts of each case the Court of Appeal found that in neither case had sufficient justification for the interference with the claimants' right to private life been advanced and that their rights under Article 8, ECHR had therefore been violated. Full judgment is available here

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