Last Wednesday a landmark protest case was lost when Metropolitan Police won its appeal against John Catt, a 90 year old anti-war campaigner from Brighton who has fought a long battle to have his details removed from the national ‘domestic extremist’ database’ (also referred to as the National Special Branch Intelligence System). The Met was appealing against a court of appeal judgement from 2013, which stated that the police had no right to retain Catt’s details on the database as this constitutes a breach of his rights to private life and that the records should be destroyed.
Bound to have wide reaching consequences, the new supreme court ruling gives the police the go ahead to continue surveillance of protestors more or less unchecked. As the Network for Police Monitoring put it in its statement about the outcome: ‘The significance of today’s ruling is that it changes the basis on which retention of data must be justified, from the individual to the general’. Or in other words, anyone who attends a public demonstration or protest can expect to be put on a database as long as the police considers it to be useful for wider, mainly undefined, data gathering purposes.
John Catt has indicated his intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
For detailed analysis and back ground to this case see Corporate Watch’s article Will the Supreme Court give police the ‘right’ to mass surveillance? and reports from the Network for Police Monitoring, including its statement regarding the recent verdict: Analysis of the UK Supreme Court ruling on surveillance of political activism
The full Supreme Court ruling can be read here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2013_0112_Judgment.pdf
Statement from the anti-militarist campaign Smash EDO, quoted in the ruling: Smash EDO response to supreme court ruling on surveillance