The Data Brief

A monthly data protection bulletin from the barristers at 5 Essex Chambers

Accuracy, personal data, and criminal proceedings

26 June 2024

McLoughlin v Chief Constable of Kent Police [2024] EWHC 990 (KB) considered the thorny issue of the accuracy of personal data in the context of law enforcement and criminal proceedings. Mr McLoughlin (C) pleaded guilty in 2016 to 9 counts of possession of indecent images of children. The evidence in the criminal proceedings included a witness statement from a police officer stating that, at the time the searches/downloads occurred, a person was logged into C’s Facebook account (‘the personal data’). When C moved to Leicestershire, the Chief Constable (D) notified local authorities of C’s conviction and provided the witness statement. In 2022, C brought a claim against D under the Data Protection Act 2018 alleging that the personal data was inaccurate. D applied for strike out and/or summary judgment, arguing that (i) the claim was an abusive attempt to relitigate the criminal proceedings and (ii) C had no reasonable prospect of showing that the personal data was inaccurate. The application was dismissed.

On appeal, the High Court allowed the appeal on (i): the claim was abusive insofar as it attempted to relitigate prior proceedings. This disposed of the appeal (and claim), so Kerr J declined to consider whether witness immunity should render a DPA claim founded on inaccuracy non-justiciable and treated (ii) (the second ground) lightly: he disagreed that the Judge hearing the application had taken an over-elaborate or technical approach to meaning and rejected the submission that the determination of meaning should have taken into account the context that the document was a statement intended for criminal proceedings. Unlike in AB v Chief Constable of British Transport Police [2022] EWHC 2749 (KB), the personal data was not recording information received but the product of police investigative work, intended to state the officer’s evidence. Under s.205(1) of the DPA, personal data is inaccurate if it is “incorrect or misleading as to any matter of fact.” By these lights, the personal data was at least arguably inaccurate.

Further reading: McLoughlin v Chief Constable of Kent Police [2024] EWHC 990 (KB)

The Data Brief

A monthly data protection bulletin from the barristers at 5 Essex Chambers

The Data Brief is edited by Francesca Whitelaw KC, Aaron Moss and John Goss, barristers at 5 Essex Chambers, with contributions from the whole information law, data protection and AI Team.

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