ECHR judgment of 24 January 2019 in the case of Catt v. The United Kingdom (аpplication No. 43514/15).
In 2015, the applicant was assisted in preparing the аpplication. Subsequently, the аpplication was communicated to the United Kingdom.
In the case, the applicant’s complaint regarding the inclusion of information about him in the database of law enforcement agencies, including personal data and information related to the applicant’s participation in demonstrations organized by the aggressive protest group, as well as other political and trade union events, was successfully considered. The case has violated the requirements of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Circumstances of the case
The applicant has been an active peace activist since 1948. In 2005, he began participating in demonstrations organized by an aggressive protest group and held in the presence of a significant number of police officers. The applicant was never held accountable for any offense, and the risk of committing violent crimes was abstract.
In the courts of the United Kingdom, the applicant requested the removal of information about himself from the police database, known as the “Extremism Database”. The data contained in the database included the name of the applicant, his address, date of birth and information about his participation in the demonstrations. Most of the information was related to demonstrations organized by an aggressive protest group, but they also contained information about his participation in other political and trade union events.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Regarding compliance with article 8 of the Convention. As regards the issue of whether there was an urgent need to collect the applicant’s personal data, the Court acknowledged that yes. This information was obtained openly. The very nature of this data collection suggested that the police collect information from the beginning, and only then assess its value. Police officers had an obvious role as observers for protests when it was known that the activities of the organizing group were violent and potentially criminal. Accordingly, even if the applicant himself was not suspected of being directly involved in the criminal activities of the group, it was quite reasonable for the police to collect his personal data. As a result, he himself decided to repeatedly and publicly join the activities of this protest group.
As to whether there was an urgent need to store the applicant's data, the Court considers that there was no such need. In the absence of any rules determining the maximum period of storage of such information, the applicant was completely dependent on the careful application of the highly flexible guarantees enshrined in the relevant code of practice to ensure the proportionality of the storage of his data. If the state decides to create such a system, the need for effective procedural guarantees becomes crucial. These safeguards should ensure the removal of such information as soon as its continued storage becomes disproportionate.
As regards the information about the applicant, there was a possibility that it could be stored for an indefinite period. Although the applicant had and used the opportunity to demand the disclosure and destruction of his data, such a guarantee, apparently, had a limited effect, given the fact that he received a refusal to delete his data or any explanation of their continued storage. The lack of effective guarantees was of particular concern to the applicant, as the information stored in the database concerned his political views, which required a higher level of protection. Participation in peaceful protests was subject to special protection under Article 11 of the Convention, as well as the trade unions in which the applicant also participated.
The definition of “domestic extremism” in the context of the “Database of Extremism”, voiced during the proceedings in the courts of the United Kingdom, referred to the collection of information about groups and individuals who acted “outside the democratic process”. Thus, it did not follow from the case file that the police officers complied with their own definition of extremism when storing data on the applicant’s connection with peaceful political events.
As regards the storage of the applicant’s data, in particular regarding the peaceful protest, it was neither proved that it was absolutely necessary, nor that it was necessary for the purposes of a specific investigation.
The Court was not convinced that data deletion would be so burdensome as to be unreasonable. Creating a database in such a way that the information contained in it could not be easily reviewed or changed, and then using this circumstance as an excuse for refusing to delete information from the database would be completely contrary to the need to protect the privacy provided by Article 8 of the Convention.
In the case there was a violation of the requirements of Article 8 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The applicant did not submit a claim for compensation, therefore the Court did not award him any amounts under this head.