Thomas Mansfield represents Claimant in Breach of Privacy Action against the Police
Neill Thomas Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Thomas Mansfield acted for Andrea Brown in claims for breach of data protection and human rights law, misuse of confidential information and misfeasance in public office against the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police.
The claims, which were recently heard at Central London County Court, arose from a trip Ms Brown, then a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police based at Sutton Police Station, made to Barbados to visit family with her daughter shortly before Christmas 2011. At the time Ms Brown was on sick leave. On her return she notified her line manager of her trip. Her failure to notify her line manager of her absence before she travelled amounted to a minor disciplinary matter. However, senior officers in the Metropolitan Police then used powers which the police are granted to investigate and prevent crime to obtain personal data on Ms Brown, including details of her international travel over the previous five years and the booking of her flights to and from Barbados, from the National Border Targeting Centre, which is staffed by Greater Manchester Police and from Virgin Atlantic. The application to Virgin Atlantic cited the "Police Act 2007" in support of the demand for the data, a piece of legislation which does not exist.
When she learnt of the unlawful data requests Ms Brown sued both the Metropolitan Police and the Greater Manchester Police. Both forces denied liability but shortly before the trial both admitted that the data requests breached both the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998. At trial His Honour Judge Jan Luba QC upheld the claim for misuse of private information but dismissed the claim for misfeasance in public office against both forces. There will be a judgment on damages at a later date.
When interviewed about the case by BBC News Ms Brown's solicitor advocate David Gray-Jones of Thomas Mansfield Solicitors Limited said: "What is significant is that the judge commented that the senior police officers involved in this case didn't appear to have any appreciation or understanding of the laws that regulate their conduct in this area, and didn't acknowledge that they had done anything wrong."
The case illustrates how importance it is for organisations to comply with data protection law and indicates the remedies which are available to an individual if those laws are breached, particularly if the breach is carried out by a public sector organisation.