Andrew Wood has won his landmark case against the Metropolitan Police in the Court of Appeal. The case relates to the police's use of surveillance with regard to law abiding protesters in the UK.
In April 2005 Andrew, who worked for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), attended the Annual General Meeting of Reed Elsevier. As he left the meeting the police followed him, repeatedly photographed him and sought to establish his identity (see our previous blog entry for more details). Andrew took the police to judicial review for their 'routine' surveillance of a person going about their lawful business and engaged in political activity.
The court has now ruled that the police action was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the 'Right to respect for private and family life', and specifically 8(1) of the convention: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence". The judgment also makes reference to the recent victory for civil liberties in the case of Marper with regards to the retention of innocent peoples' DNA on the National DNA Database.
The judgment states:
On the particular facts the police action, unexplained at the time it happened and carrying as it did the implication that the images would be kept and used, is a sufficient intrusion by the State into the individual's own space, his integrity, as to amount to a prima facie violation of Article 8(1). It attains a sufficient level of seriousness and in the circumstances the appellant enjoyed a reasonable expectation that his privacy would not be thus invaded. Moreover I consider with respect that this conclusion is supported by the judgment of the Strasbourg court in Marper. It will be recalled that the first sentence of paragraph 67 reads:
"The mere storing of data relating to the private life of an individual amounts to an interference within the meaning of Article 8..."
In his closing remarks, Lord Collins of Mapesbury expresses concern about the wider surveillance state and CCTV:
Nevertheless, it is plain that the last word has yet to be said on the implications for civil liberties of the taking and retention of images in the modern surveillance society. This is not the case for the exploration of the wider, and very serious, human rights issues which arise when the State obtains and retains the images of persons who have committed no offence and are not suspected of having committed any offence.
In a recent Guardian article Andrew wrote:
Occasionally people joke "here comes the law" when referring to the police. But the police aren't the law, and they are subject to the law – just like you and I. Today a ruling by the court of appeal found the police had broken the law when they undertook a "routine surveillance" operation against Campaign Against Arms Trade in 2005 – a period in which I was CAAT's press officer.
Today's court of appeal ruling maintains that, while the police photography was undertaken in a public place, there was a reasonable expectation of privacy and the photography could not be separated from its use, ie the creation of a police file. The judgment relied on the recent ruling of the European court of human rights regarding the retention of DNA profiles (Marper v UK) and other case law. Today's judgment limits the retention of photographs and other information unless there is a genuine ongoing criminal investigation; there was no crime or further criminal investigation resulting from the AGM of Reed Elsevier in 2005.
At the back of my mind throughout the four years it has taken to reach today's decision was the statement by Richard Thomas, the government's information commissioner, that Britain would "sleep-walk" into a surveillance society. In a very small way, my work and that of my solicitors and barrister Martin Westgate has drawn a line in the sand: the arbitrary retention of people's photographs by the state is wrong, breaches the law and must stop.
More information about the case can be found at www.judicialreview.org.uk.
Read the full judgment at www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/414.html&query=title+(+Wood+)&method=boolean