In Catt v United Kingdom  ECHR 76, the European Court departed from and disagreed with the Supreme Court, holding that the police’s collection and retention of data of a peaceful protestor was an unlawful interference with Article 8 of the Convention.
Mr Catt was a 94-year-old man from Brighton; a peaceful protestor who regularly attended public demonstrations since 1947. In 2005, he began attending demonstrations held by ‘Smash EDO’. Although there was often serious disorder and criminality at Smash EDO’s protests, Mr Catt only ever attended in a peaceful capacity and was never charged with anything.
In 2010, he made a ‘subject access request’ to the police, to identify what records, if any, they held on him. The police disclosed sixty-six entries identifying his attending protests between 2005 and 2009. Some were EDO Smash protests, many were other protests. All of these records were held on the police’s “Extremism Database”.
The Association of Chief Police Officers, ‘ACPO’, refused to delete the entries on Mr Catt. They failed to give any reasons for this refusal, and so Mr Catt judicially reviewed ACPO’s decision. In so doing, he claimed a breach of his article 8 right to privacy.
A review of the reported legal decisions 2014 relating to policing demonstrates that many of the old risk areas for litigation continued to trouble chief police officers, and increasingly Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). While it is difficult for a force to protect itself from litigation following unpredictable major events, such as the London riots, there are particular aspects of policing where forces continue to face repeated litigation, or trends suggest that claims are likely to increase in the future.
The public scrutiny of police activity, and the rights of individual members of the public to bring action when their rights are infringed, are truly fundamental features of open democracy. A certain amount of civil litigation is probably an inevitable feature of modern policing. However, Chief Officers and PCCs ought to be examining carefully whether there are aspects of their police operations that are generating excessive civil claims. Reducing the incidence of such claims ought to improve the standards of policing as well as reducing the annual drain on policing budgets caused by legal claims and their associated costs.
In R (TD) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis & Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2231 (Admin) the Divisional Court found that the retention of an “NFA’d” complaint of sexual assault by the Claimant on police databases for 9 years was not, on the facts of the case, a disproportionate interference with the Claimant’s Article 8 rights.