Section 7(9) Again (What, Again?)

On a day when the country goes to the polls (or, if you a UKIP supporter, to the Poles), it is nice to be able remind people of the more important things in life than mere democratic-right exercising. The chief of these is, surely, developments under the Data Protection Act 1998. Happily, Panopticon can assist, with a quick note on an ex tempore judgment of HHJ Seymour QC in Ittihadieh v 5-11 Cheyne Gardens RTM Co Ltd & 6 others (QBD, 5 May 2015). There is no transcript yet available, but a headnote is now reported on Lawtel, and this summary is taken from that.

Unfortunately, without the full reasoning, one does not get the sense of what looks likely to have been a more involved argument than the bare findings relate. The case concerned an SAR made to a company, which the Claimant asserted had been an SAR to both the company and the six individual directors of that company, all of whom were data controllers. Only the company had responded, with 400 pages of documents. One might have thought the argument that directors were also data controllers would face significant difficulties in the light of Southern Pacific Personal Loans [2013] EWHC 2485 (Admin) (see here). However, Judge Seymour QC appears to have resolved the matter on the facts: the Claimant’s statements had been that he believed only the company was the data controller, he had only paid one £10 fee and the proper construction of the SAR was that it was only made to the company. The claims were accordingly struck out against the individuals.

However, even had they not been, the Judge indicated that the individuals would most likely have been able to rely upon the domestic purposes exemption in section 36 DPA, and that he would have refused relief in his discretion to require them to search their personal email accounts in order to prove the application of section 36. That is quite an interesting little comment on the extent of section 36, and its interaction with ‘personal’ emails, and it will be useful to see the full reasoning in due course.

The case also contained a reminder that just because someone pleads section 13, even after Vidal-Hall, it is no guarantee of damages. The Judge considered that there was no indication of any identifiable class of damage, and the Claimant had not bothered to try and quantify his claim. As a result, it was difficult to contemplate that he would be able to demonstrate having suffered damage or distress. The company itself had adequately complied with its obligations (although the headnote does not explain what adequate compliance consists of, or how it fits with the language of section 7) and no further order was required. The section 13 claim was transferred to the County Court.

No pretence that Ittihadieh is going to blow your mind over your cornflakes (other breakfast comestibles are available), but there are a couple of little nuggets of interest and it will be worth keeping an eye out for the full transcript as and when it hits the shelves. We DP lawyers are not yet so overwhelmed by jurisprudence that we can afford to look a section 7(9) judgment in the mouth. And with that allusion to Ancient Greece, it falls only to this blog to remind you all of your civic duty to grasp what the Prime Minister so unnervingly insists on referring to as the “stubby pencil” and vote.

Robin Hopkins (who he?) appeared for the seven defendants.

Christopher Knight