Criminal Law: Regina (on the Application of R and T) -v- Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2012] WLR (D) 126

The Claimants had been accused of harassment. In consequence thereof both Claimants were served with harassment warnings (also known as ‘Prevention of Harassment Letters’ and ‘Police Information Notices’) by the Police. The Police Officers in question retained copies of the harassment warnings, together with a record of the underlying allegations, within the Police records.

The decision of the Police to retain the aforementioned documentation was challenged by the Claimants on the basis that there was an infringement of their rights under the Article 8. Further or alternatively, the Claimants submitted that there was a contravention of the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Eady J dismissed the claims of both Claimants in their entirety. No illegality whatsoever had been established in the storage of the harassment warnings and/or the evidence of the underlying allegations. The cardinal issue was whether the practice of the Police accorded with the respect for private light enshrined in Article 8. It was held that the retention of the documentation in question, irrespective of any use to which it was or would be put, could involve a prima facie intrusion into the Article 8 rights of the person. However, the intrusion could be justified given the purpose of the retention, namely to discourage and reduce harassment/stalking. The same balancing act resulted in an identical conclusion vis-a-vis the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998, subject to necessity and proportionality and provided that the contents of the harassment warnings were being kept in strict conditions of confidentiality.