Courts rule against data access requests

Employers may be encour-aged to refuse unreasonable or vexatious data access
requests following two recent rulings.

These show that where the employer resists unreasonable demands, the courts
may be willing to overlook the strict letter of the law.

In P v Wozencraft, 2002, EWHC 1724 (Fam) the claim-ant requested
rectification under section 14 and access under section 7 of the Data
Protection Act 1998. However, the court agreed that all the documents had
already been disclosed, making the claim "virtually redundant".

"This shows data controllers can question the Information
Commissioner’s assessments where they appear to be at odds with case law or
common sense," said Marcus Turle, partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse.

The courts have also shown themselves willing to rule against access
requests which do not reflect the spirit of section 7, which enables
individuals to determine the accuracy of data. If the request is for any other
reason, the data controller can lawfully refuse.

In Durant v Financial Services Authority (FSA), the judge said even if the
papers in question had been disclosable by law, he would not have ordered
disclosure as he did not see how they could be of practical value to Durant.

"This should help cut down on litigants merely looking to cause
disruption and encourage employers to resist frivolous or vexatious
requests," said Turle.

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