Employment Cases Update

Cooper v National Crime Agency [2019] EWCA Civ 16

Date published: 25/01/2019

Appeal against the dismissal of the Claimant's claim for damages for unlawful processing by the Respondent (SOCA) of sensitive personal data in relation to him, contrary to his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 in the context of its decision to dismiss him. Cross-appeal against the remittance of one part of the ET's decision relating to the information-sharing practice between SOCA and the police. Appeal and cross-appeal dismissed.

The Claimant was dismissed by the Respondent, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), after he was charged with an offence contrary to the terms in his contract of employment. The ET and the EAT held that SOCA was entitled to expect high standards of conduct from its officers, including when they were off-duty; that it had carried out a reasonable investigation into the incident; and that in the circumstances dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses available to SOCA. However, the EAT could not be sure that the ET had considered properly the information-sharing practice between SOCA and the police i.e. the likelihood that SOCA would pass back to Sussex Police information which it obtained from the Claimant in the course of him responding to the disciplinary charges against him when it reached its conclusion that SOCA had proceeded in a fair manner. This point was remitted back to the ET and SOCA appealed.

The Claimant also sued SOCA for damages for unlawful processing of sensitive personal data in relation to him, contrary to his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 in the context of its decision to dismiss him. A County Court judge dismissed the claim. The judge held that there were a number of justifications for the processing of the data by SOCA which were available to SOCA under the DPA relating to its contractual rights as employer and its public functions as a law enforcement agency. The Claimant appealed.

The Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals. First, on the SOCA cross-appeal, the court held that there was no error by the ET or the EAT in relation to their examination of the way in which SOCA's disciplinary panels dealt with the circumstances under which the Brighton custody material came into the possession of SOCA. Second, in relation to the Claimant's appeal, SOCA had a clear and compelling legitimate interest in using/processing the personal data in the way it did, in the public interest. That interest outweighed the points of concern on the part of the Claimant raised in the notice of appeal, with the result that it could not be said that the processing by SOCA was unwarranted or in any way disproportionate by reason of prejudice to the rights, freedoms or legitimate interests of the Claimant.

Read the full text of the judgment on Bailii

 

Employment Claims without a Lawyer 2nd edition published March 2018