Anybody who hands their personal information to a third party – a company, a club, a political party, the government or whoever – may see that data handed out to others or made public, with no way of seeking legal redress, according to the finding of a court case today.
And Labour members going through the party’s complaints procedure are still unlikely to get justice, even after the party promised to follow recommendations by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
These are the inevitable conclusions drawn from the verdict in This Writer’s court case, in which I accused the Labour Party of breach of contract.
I had said that Labour had failed to follow its own procedures for investigating complaints against party members after an allegation of anti-Semitism was made against me in 2017.
And I had said that a party official – or several – had leaked information, including lies, about me to the press while I was going through that process, in breach of the Data Protection Act.
Both of those claims were found to be accurate.
But in the hearing this afternoon, Deputy District Judge Whiteley said he could not uphold my case against Labour because the party’s Rule Book does not say that it must follow the procedures it has created to investigate complaints, or that it must adhere to the DPA.
That’s right. Unless an organisation’s rules specifically state that it will adhere to the Data Protection Act, then there are loopholes in the law – large enough to drive a lorry through – that mean your personal information can be passed on to anybody at all, regardless of your own wishes.
In this case, I had said somebody within the Labour Party had passed information that I had been accused of anti-Semitism to the Western Mail in 2017, and a Labour employee (I don’t know whether it was the same person) had passed false information about the allegations against me to The Sunday Times in February 2018. I said this breached the Data Protection Act because information about me had been passed on without my permission.
But Labour said that the party itself had not authorised the leak and that it had been unable to identify that anybody within its system had caused it. The party could not deny that the leak came from within Labour because the information had been generated as part of its complaint process and could only, therefore, have come from Labour.
The law states that an unincorporated association (which is how Labour is defined for legal purposes) is responsible for prohibited conduct carried out by its employees and agents against members and prospective members. Breaching the DPA would count as such.
But it also states that an association would not be legally responsible for the act of an employee that was not carried out in the course of their employment – and the court deemed that leaking information was not an act carried out in the course of their employment.
This means that any organisation that has your personal information may pass it on indescriminately – to anybody it likes, no matter what the Data Protection Act says or how avidly it states it adheres to that law, because anybody working there can follow the actions of Labour’s employee(s) and know they will get away with it.
So if you have provided your information to any third party at all, it is not safe.
Nor will it be safe until our lawmakers find a way to close this loophole in the law. They will not even consider doing so unless they are pressured into it. That will be your responsibility.
The judge also said that Labour had not breached its contract with me by failing to investigate the complaint against me according to its own procedures, because those procedures were not enshrined in the party’s Rule Book and therefore it had no obligation to follow them.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has announced that the party will follow the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, whose report on anti-Semitism in the party contains a chapter on the failings of the process by which complaints are investigated.
The EHRC recommended that Labour should “publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how antisemitism complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made”.
It says the party should “develop and implement comprehensive internal guidance for all stages of the antisemitism complaints process”.
None of this means a damned thing because anybody challenging a failure by the party to follow its procedures will find that it has no obligation to do so; they are merely procedures, not rules.
Consider the way current complaints procedures have been flouted wholesale recently – not just over the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn but over complaints against allies of Starmer who have been accused of anti-Semitism – and against Starmer himself.
It seems clear that the Labour Party Rule Book is not worth the paper it is printed on – or the electricity required to put it on your screen.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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