Staff from at least two busy courts, including Gateshead Magistrates, have been criticised by Number 10 for attempting to restrict the flow of information to local media.
Court officials told journalists that they could no longer supply full court lists and would instead receive an abbreviated list giving only defendants names, because of data protection legislation.
A spokesman for Number 10 stated:
‘The withholding of information absolutely should not happen. Court lists will continue to be fully available to members of the press, and the courts service has a clear protocol that allows journalists to obtain court listings’.
The reasoning is that reporters rely on the advanced lists, which contain personal information such as names, dates of birth and addresses of the defendants, in addition to the charges against them, in order to help them decide which cases to cover.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service, part of the Ministry of Justice, said that a small number of court employees had misunderstood the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR), which came into force in May this year.
The Prime Minister’s office has made clear that guidance is given to all staff and it remains unaffected by GDPR rules. The courts and tribunals service has therefore reminded staff of their responsibilities to prevent any repeats of these incidents. They have also reiterated that courts across the country must continue publishing full lists to protect the transparency of the criminal justice system.
The GDPR rules for sensitive (special category) data do not apply to information about criminal allegations, proceedings or convictions. It is lawful to process this type of data if you have official authority to do so because you are processing the data in an official capacity.
If your organisation requires assistance in understanding the GDPR and providing training of all staff, Short Richardson & Forth have a dedicated and experienced GDPR team. Please do not hesitate to contact David Gibson at email@example.com or on 0191 232 0283.