Take peaceful protesters off police extremism database, lawyers tell court

 

Police forces should no longer be allowed to store the personal information of peaceful protesters on a domestic extremism database if they are not linked to any crimes, a court heard today.

Lawyers acting for 87-year-old John Catt, who has not been linked to any crimes at demonstrations he has attended, argued that police are maintaining a file on their client simply because his regular presence at protests, in contravention of his right to privacy.

The case has major implications for the way the police go about placing protest groups under surveillance in the future.

Tim Owen QC told the court that the police’s current approach means that students who peacefully march at demonstrations where others are involved in violence could end up on the extremism database because they “happen to be seen at another demonstration”.

He added that the effect of the police’s surveillance of regular, peaceful protesters was that they would come to expect to be placed on a database of domestic extremists.

And the court heard that the police had shown an “almost knee-jerk response” in presuming that anyone who turns up at a protest, regardless of what they do, “their name goes on the list”.

Shamik Dutta of Bhatt Murphy said: “The Court of Appeal will determine whether protesters forego the right to privacy if they engage in peaceful protest. If the appeal is successful, police forces will need to review the way in which they gather and retain information about protesters who have never committed any offence”.

Mr Catt’s lawyers did not argue against police officers placing protesters under surveillance where they thought there was a risk of disorder, but said that there was no reason to keep the information gathered once it became plain that the subject was not linked to any crime, either as a perpetrator or as a witness; as they said was the case with their client.

Keeping the dossier, they argued, was in contravention of his right to privacy.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Liberty have both been given permission to intervene. John Wadham, General Counsel of the ECHR, said: “We accept the need for there to be measures to ensure the safety of the public , but these need to be proportionate. The right to protest peacefully in public is a core human right and any measures that restrict this right should be subject to proper scrutiny.

“The Commission is concerned that the retention of material on this database, and the inadequate safeguards for its proper use and deletion, are an unlawful breach of the right to freedom of speech and freedom of protest. The police now need to take measures to ensure that the information they hold does not contravene the law.”

Mr Catt, who has been heavily involved with the Smash EDO campaign – among others, is appealing an earlier High Court ruling, which allowed police to keep photographs and other personal information belonging to him on the National Domestic Extremism Database. Last year, Mr Justice Irwin said that protesters registering their feelings in public had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The first case followed the refusal of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) to permanently delete all the data retained about Mr Catt, who found 66 entries about him had been made on the National Domestic Extremism Database, including one about his appearance.

His appeal is being heard in the High Court by the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Tomlinson and continues tomorrow.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?