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Ex-Banker wins High Court damages against Essex Police over publication of rape allegation

3 March 2015


A former banker whose name and photograph were published in connection with a rape allegation has won substantial damages against Essex Police at the High Court on 2 March 2015. The High Court awarded damages of over £67,000 to Anthony Crook for a breach of confidence, breach of his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 and breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to privacy).

Mr Crook was represented by Nia Williams of Saunders Law Ltd and Una Morris of Garden Court Chambers.

The case has been reported by the BBC, The IndependentSky News, and also in the local press.

Anthony Crook was working in Dubai when his photograph was published by Essex Police in 2010 as one of the 10 “most wanted” in Essex for alleged rape. His image was published on the front cover of a local newspaper and similar details were released on local radio and TV stations, which subsequently spread to international media. No charges were ever brought against Mr Crook.

The High Court also made declarations that his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 and under Article 8 (the right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

This case raises a number of important points of law on the release of sensitive personal data by the police in connection with alleged offences.

 

Nia Williams of Saunders Law Ltd states “The case establishes that police were wrong to publish Mr Crook's photograph and details of an alleged  sexual offence before hearing his side of things.       Once police spoke to him, it was clear that no further action would be taken, and it was NFA in days. Yet by then Mr Crook's personal details and the allegation had spread all over the internet, with catastrophic consequences for his personal and professional life.

 

The judgment sets out that police have a duty to carefully consider a person's right to privacy before releasing confidential information about them - particularly where it involves an alleged sexual offence, given the huge social stigma attached.    In the internet era, information spreads quickly and once  the genie is out of the bottle it is often impossible to put it back.

 

We were told that in 2010 Essex Police were experimenting with a new “Crimewatch” rogues gallery approach to flushing out runaway criminals.   Mr Crook wasn’t a runaway nor a criminal and in fact had contacted police before his details were published.   Had police looked at the available ACPO guidance at the time, they would have avoided all that followed.”

 

 
Liam Gregory writes for Bloomsbury Law
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