Monday 23 October 2017

Protester wins database challenge

A campaigner has won a Court of Appeal challenge in his fight to get details of his attendance at protests removed from a police database
A campaigner has won a Court of Appeal challenge in his fight to get details of his attendance at protests removed from a police database

An 88-year-old political campaigner has won a Court of Appeal challenge in his battle to have details about his attendance at various protests removed from a police "extremism" database.

John Catt, from Brighton, East Sussex - who is of good character - argued that, as he has not engaged in any criminality, the retention of data about him on the National Domestic Extremism Database was unlawful.

Last year, Mr Catt - who said his human rights were being violated - urged two judges at the High Court in London to order the removal of details about his activities from the database, which is operated by police chiefs.

But Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Irwin dismissed his judicial review claim, ruling that his right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was not infringed.

Following a hearing at the Court of Appeal in January, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice McCombe, have now announced that they had allowed Mr Catt's appeal against that earlier decision.

The appeal judges said the inclusion of personal information relating to Mr Catt on the database "does involve an interference with his right to respect for his private life which requires justification". They said they had reached the conclusion that the "interference with Mr Catt's right to respect for his private life has not been justified and that the appeal must therefore be allowed".

Mr Catt was not present in court for the ruling, but said in a statement: "I hope this judgment will bring an end to the abusive and intimidatory monitoring of peaceful protesters by police forces nationwide. Police surveillance of this kind only serves to undermine our democracy and deter lawful protest."

His lawyer, Shamik Dutta, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, said the judgment "acts as a safeguard against the creeping criminalisation of peaceful protest".

Mr Catt originally went to the High Court following the refusal of the Association of Chief Police Officers to permanently delete all the data retained about him. The court was told that his fight was for "a citizen's right lawfully to manifest his political views without being labelled a domestic extremist subject to a special and apparently arbitrary form of state surveillance".

The data at the centre of the case comprised records or reports made by officers overtly policing demonstrations of protest group Smash EDO. It has carried on a long-running campaign calling for the closure of EDO, a US-owned arms company conducting lawful business. It has a factory in Brighton.

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