Peaceful protester, 94, wins legal battle over police ‘extremism’ database
A 94-year-old peaceful protester has won an eight-year legal battle to have his details removed from a police “extremism” database.
The European Court of Human Rights handed down the ruling in the case of John Catt v the United Kingdom on Thursday.
The war veteran and political campaigner from Brighton, East Sussex, who has no criminal record, went to court to get his personal details and information about his attendance at various protests removed from police records.
After the ruling was handed down, his lawyer Shamik Dutta said in a tweet: “After an eight year legal battle against the police, home office and finally UK government. John Catt wins in his #domesticextremism database challenge! #Cattvuk”.
The judgment said: “The quality of the relevant legal framework was not adequate in a context such as the present one, and therefore the interference was not ‘in accordance with the law’ within the meaning of Article 8.
“This finding is sufficient to conclude that there has been a violation of Article 8.”
Mr Catt vowed to take his battle to Europe after Supreme Court justices overturned an earlier ruling in his favour.
He argued he has not engaged in any criminality, the continuing retention of data about him on the National Domestic Extremism Database is unlawful and breaches his right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Catt first took legal action after the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) refused his request to permanently delete all the data about him.
The database is maintained by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, originally under the supervision of Acpo, and now under the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
In March 2013, he won his case at the Court of Appeal after a defeat at the High Court the previous year.
Court of Appeal judges said the information about Mr Catt was at first retained lawfully, but ruled it was held for a “disproportionate” length of time, violating Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
But then the UK’s highest court found in favour of police lawyers who said continuing to keep the details was still lawful.
Mr Catt previously described how his fight was “for the sake of other innocent people whose lawful political activities are being monitored by the state” and he would not give up.
He said: “This is an example of the erosion of freedom and a violation of private life. It is abusive collecting data and it is data control. I will not give up.”