Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Garda leaks and the right to privacy

RTÉ News reports:
A family who were forced to leave their new home in Kerry because of the leaking of confidential information by gardaí to journalists have been awarded €70,000 in the High Court.

Alan and Phyllis Gray and their son Francis are originally from Blanchardstown in Co Dublin but moved to Ballybunion under the Rural Resettlement Programme.

They sued the Minister for Justice for breach of privacy.

They say they had to leave their home after gardaí leaked to the media that Mr Gray's nephew, who had served a sentence for rape, was staying with them.
This case follows the 1997 decision in Hanahoe v. Hussey where gardaí tipped off the media to the fact that a solictor's office would be searched under a search warrant, leading to a "media circus" when gardaí arrived with damage to the reputation of the firm, and ultimately resulting in an award of £100,000 in damages. In that case, the basis for the decision was that the wrongful and negligent disclosure of this information amounted to negligence under the principles in Ward v. McMaster. It's not clear from the media coverage whether the decision in this case goes further, or whether data protection principles were also considered. (Compare section 7 of the Data Protection Acts, 1988-2003, creating a duty of care in respect of the handling of personal data.)

It does, however, represent an interesting application of the Hanahoe v. Hussey principle that public bodies may owe you a duty of care to keep certain information confidential. It also reflects Hanahoe v. Hussey in that it shows a judicial willingness to impose vicarious liability in respect of unauthorised garda disclosures.

Update: Eoin O'Dell links to the full decision here with an interesting discussion of the issues involved.

1 comment:

  1. Another example for the file marked 'If you haven't done anything wrong there's nothing to fear'.