Barton v Home Office

Reference: 10/11/2006

Court: Liverpool County Court

Judge: DJ Baker

Date of judgment: 10 Nov 2006

Summary: Data protection - Data Protection Act 1998 - Transitional provisions - Fourth Data Protection Principle (accuracy) - Privacy - Article 8 - Summary judgment - Striking out

Appearances: Christina Michalos QC (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: The Treasury Solicitor for the Defendant; A.S. Law for the Claimant

Facts

C was a prisoner with LSC funding to bring a data protection claim against the Home Office regarding a 1996 and 2003 Reports in his prison records. They contained allegations from third parties that C had been involved in prison incidents including starting a fire and threatening to kill an officer. C disputed these items of information. He brought a claim under the DPA 1998 alleging the reports contravened the 4th Data Protection Principle (Accuracy) and sought rectification by erasure. The Home Office had amended the Reports to record on their face that C disputed the accuracy of the information in them. C argued that the Reports affected his continued classification as a Category A prisoner in breach of Art 8. The Home Office adduced evidence to the contrary and also relied on R v Dep Govnr of Parkhurst Prison ex p Hague [1991] WLR 340 and Katchis v Home Office [2003] EWHC 3548 (no residual liberty and categorisation essentially a matter for the prison).

Issue

(1) Whether the Defendant was entitled to summary judgment as it had a defence under Sch 1, Part II para 7 (no contravention of 4th Principle for innaccuracy in data that accurately records information received from a third party where reasonable steps taken to ensure accuracy);

(2) Whether the 1996 Report was exempt from the 4th Principle under the Transitional Provisions – Sch 8, Part III, para 14 (exemption for eligible manual data), and;

(3) Whether the case should be struck out for delay, these matters having first been complained of by C in 1997 yet proceedings not having been issued until 2005.

Held

C had no real prospects of success. The claim was struck out and summary judgment was granted to the Defendant. The 1996 Report was eligible manual data and by virtue of Sch 8, Part III para 14 neither the fourth data protection principle and s. 14(1) (order for erasure) applied. The C had no real prospects of success in respect of the 2003 Report including the Human Rights Act argument. There had been a delay – namely a delay of 8 years.

Comment

A rare example of a claim (in respect of the 1996 Report) failing completely by reason of the exceptions set out in the transitional provisions in Sch 8. The 1996 Report was eligible manual data as it was created and subject to processing before 24th October 1998. The Defendant was able to claim the benefit of the exemption from the 4th Principle granted in respect of the recording of information received from a third party under Sch 1, Part II, para 7. Under that paragraph, the court must have regard to the purposes for which the data was obtained. In the case of prison intelligence records, there are powerful public policy reasons why all reports concerning safety and security in the prison are recorded. To claim the exemption, if the data subject has notified the defendant that he considers the data is inaccurate, the data must be amended to indicate this. In this case, the prison records had been so amended which illustrates the importance of keeping records up to date.