Success for Louis Browne KC and Mark Ainsworth in important Human Rights and Data Protection case in the High Court Media and Communications List

December 1, 2022

Louis Browne KC from Exchange Chambers, leading Mark Ainsworth, has successfully resisted an appeal in an important case relating to the Data Protection Acts 1998 and 2018, and the Human Rights Act 1998.

In AB v Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, the claimant, who is autistic, complained about records retained by the British Transport Police containing inaccurate allegations which caused the claimant psychiatric harm. The claimant was questioned by police on both occasions but was not charged with any criminal offence.

Louis Browne KC successfully argued the data in the police records was not accurate, proportionate or up to date and that British Transport Police was in breach of the claimant’s rights under the Data Protection Act 1998, the Data Protection Act 2018 and under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.   He argued that the records should be deleted and sought damages on behalf of the claimant.

HHJ Sephton QC found in favour of the claimant. He ordered that British Transport Police erase the data and made an award for distress, pecuniary losses and aggravated damages.

Sitting in the High Court Media and Communications List, Mr Justice Johnson has now dismissed the Chief Constable’s appeal against the decisions on proportionality and quantum.

Mr Justice Johnson ruled that it had not been shown that the judge was wrong to conclude that the retention of the records was a disproportionate interference with AB’s right to respect for private life. He therefore dismissed the appeal against the judge’s declaration that the retention of the records was unlawful. Mr Justice Johnson also dismissed the appeal against the judge’s assessment of damages.

Louis Browne KC and Mark Ainsworth were instructed by Phillip Coburn, Partner at MSB Solicitors.

Commenting on the outcome, Phillip Coburn said: “This was a long and hard-fought case with a very successful outcome for our client, made possible by the dedication of the claimant and their parents, and the considerable expertise of Louis Browne KC and Mark Ainsworth of Exchange Chambers.

“Thankfully the claimant was able to obtain out of area access to public funds and could avoid being a victim of a legal aid desert so as to give the access to justice the case deserved. I could not be more pleased for our client and their family.”

AB’s parents said: “We never wanted to take out a civil claim in the first place but were left with no choice. It’s been a very difficult eight year plus battle to get our son’s data erased and an acknowledgement of the ongoing harm caused to him. We cannot praise this legal team highly enough for always believing in the case and getting it to the point where our son can now move on in his life after losing all of his twenties to this trauma.

“The lawyers were always very empathetic with the issues that drove this claim. The judgment will hopefully highlight the sensory difficulties faced by autistic people, in this case on public transport, and the need for police to comply with their safeguarding responsibilities, which BTP clearly failed to do throughout. Being able to work directly and collaboratively with counsel, as well as with our son’s solicitor, gave us the confidence and resilience to keep going because working as a team pooled all our energy and resources, and always made our son feel included. They were always very generous with their time, very patient, made us feel heard, and have worked tirelessly for this outcome.”