Disclosure of Leakers

March 1st, 2021

A potentially interesting judgment was handed down orally this morning by Tipples J, rejecting an application from a former Labour Party official to force the Labour Party to disclose the identity of those it believed leaked an internal report concerning the Party’s approach to antisemitism and the conduct of various officials. The Applicant, Ms Oldknow, whose data was contained in the leaked report, wished to uncover the identities of those individuals in order to bring proceedings against them.

No written judgment is yet available, but reporting indicates that Tipples J rejected the application – brought under CPR r.31.16 for pre-action disclosure and/or on a Norwich Pharmacal basis – as being little more than a fishing expedition. The Party had generally opposed the application, pointing out that the leak was the subject of investigations by the Information Commissioner and by Martin Forde QC (which it had commissioned), and that it did not know the guilty parties: any individuals identified would merely be suspects and then subjected to lengthy and costly litigation. Unite the Union also joined the proceedings to oppose the application, representing the affected individuals. 

Given that the application is an unusual attempt – in a highly politically charged context of course – to uncover the identity of individual(s) responsible for a significant data and privacy breach, by applying against the controller of that data, it will be interesting in due course to see the written reasoning of the Court for indications as to when such an application might move beyond an impermissible fishing expedition to a permissible vindication of a victim’s right of access to the court. No doubt we will return to the point anon.

Anya Proops QC and Zac Sammour represented the Labour Party.

Christopher Knight

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