The Court of Appeal has upheld a successful claim by an individual anonymously known as ‘ZXC’ for misuse of private information in respect of confidential details of a criminal investigation into ZXC which were published by Bloomberg. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal held that ZXC had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of a UK law enforcement body’s suspicion that ZXC had committed a criminal offence. While there is no unqualified right to privacy during an investigation, it is the legitimate starting point when considering whether an individual’s Article 8 rights are engaged.
The details in question were contained in a confidential ‘Letter of Request’ sent by a UK law enforcement body to the competent authority of a foreign state, which summarised the investigations into ZXC and set out suspicions that ZXC may have committed various fraud-related offences. This was obtained by Bloomberg and its contents were published.
The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Justice Nicklin’s judgment at first instance, in which he granted the Claimant an injunction and £25,000 in damages. Lord Justice Simon expanded upon Mann J’s judgment in Richard v BBC, restating that individuals in general have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the fact of an investigation, and adding that this principle applies regardless of the type of crime being investigated or the public characteristics of the subject, for instance their involvement in politics or business.
Lord Justice Simon also highlighted the importance of privacy in cases involving investigations with regard to the reputation of individuals: “the law should recognise the human characteristic to assume the worst (that there is no smoke without fire); and to overlook the fundamental legal principle that those who are accused of an offence are deemed to be innocent until they are proven guilty”.
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