The Data Brief

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

Dudley v Philips [2022] EWHC 930 (QB)

29 April 2022

The Claimant was the subject of online publications created by the Defendant which accused the Claimant of fraud, financial incompetence and various forms of wrongdoing of a sexual nature. The claim was brought in libel and under the Data Protection Act 1998. Judgment was given in default and the Court went on to consider damages.

The Judge noted the decision in Aven v Orbis Business Intelligence [2020] EWHC 1812 (QB) that damage is not confined to material loss, and that damages for distress are recoverable as are damages for reputational harm. Awards for reputational harm in respect of data claims follow the common law principles developed in respect of defamation.

In adopting such an approach, the Judge first consider the gravity of the allegations and then the extent of publication.

The Claimant said that the publications described him as being an incompetent financial advisor who had lied on his CV, as well as losing his clients’ money and being concerned in fraud. The Judge described these allegations as “self-evidently very grave” and said that “fraud is one of the most serious allegations which could be made against a professional person”.

As to the extent of publication, the Judge noted that the publications could be found by a Google search and had been located by individuals who were engaged in normal professional interactions with the Claimant. Publication was to “a particularly sensitive constituency of persons who know or work with C, and… this has been an acute source of embarrassment and distress to him”.

The claim was limited on its face to £10,000 and the Claimant did not apply for this to be varied. Accordingly, the Judge awarded damages of £10,000 but indicated that the correct award would have been between £30,000 and £40,000.

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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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