Full case report

Hughes v Carratu International plc

Reference [2006] EWHC 1791 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Tugendhat J

Date of Judgment 19 Jul 2006


Summary

Data Protection Act 1998 – Confidence/Privacy – CPR 31.16 – Norwich Pharmacal – Personal financial information – Legal professional privilege


Facts

A search of an enquiry agent’s premises yielded documents containing personal financial information relating to the Applicant. The enquiry agent had been instructed by the Respondent, a corporate investigation consultancy. An application was issed that the Respondent disclose all documents containing the Applicant’s personal data as well as the identity of the party on whose instructions the information was gathered. The Respondent stated that it was instructed by a London law firm and that instructions related to information in the public domain, obtained legally.


Issue

Whether an order for disclosure should be made pursuant to CPR 31.16 and/or under the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction.


Held

Making the disclosure order,

(1) Under the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction the Court had to be satisfied, first, that a wrong had been carried out or arguably carried out, by an ultimate wrongdoer: Mitsui & Co Ltd v Neeun Petrolium UK Ltd [2005] 3 All ER 511 followed. In this case the Court could not rule out the possibility that the Respondent or the law firm had acted unlawfully in instructing the agents to obtain information about the Applicant. There was an arguable cause of action against both parties in confidence or privacy and under the Data Protection Act 1998 ss 7(9) (right of access to personal data), 14(4) (rectification and destruction), 13(1) (compensation for any contravention of the requirements of the Act) and 55.

 

 

(2) Under CPR 31.16 the Applicant had to show that, inter alia, the Respondent was likely to be a party to the proceedings. Despite the absence of any clear evidence to this effect, the Court was satisfied that this was the case.


Comment

The case illustrates the ease with which applicants can obtain disclosure orders where it appears that private information may have been wrongfully obtained – even if there is no direct evidence that the respondent, or the party whose identity was sought, themselves acted wrongfully. However the judge, following Totalise v Motley Fool [2002] 1 WLR 1233, awarded the Respondent the costs of the application (not including the costs incurred before the hearing itself).


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Instructing Solicitors

Pannone LLP for the Applicant; Eversheds for the Respondent