Morrisons turns to DWF on data breach claim by 2,000 staff
By Tabby Kinder 29 October 2015 00:03
Morrisons has instructed DWF to defend a group claim by 2,000 of its employees over a massive breach of data security.
The leak by a former staff member, Andrew Skelton, led to salary, bank account and National Insurance details for 100,000 of its staff being published online last March.
Skelton was jailed for eight years in July for the breach.
The claimants have turned to JMW Solicitors partner Nick McAleenan. The claim, due to be filed in the next two weeks, will allege Morrisons was ultimately responsible for the breaches of privacy and data protection laws.
McAleenan said the firm was also recruiting further Morrisons’ staff to join the action.
The case is expected to be the biggest ever claim in relation to a mass breach of data to hit the London High Courts.
DWF partner Andrew Harris has instructed 11KBW junior Anya Proops.
McAleenan has instructed Jonathan Barnes of 5RB Chambers.
Morrisons launched its first ever legal panel in 2013 with DWF, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, DAC Beachcroft and Eversheds among the roster of 15 firms appointed. General counsel Mark Amsden at the same time pledged to double the supermarket’s in-house team to eight lawyers by the end of that year.
The legal lineup
For the claimants, Morrisons’ employees
5RB Chambers’ Jonathan Barnes, instructed by JMW partner Nick McAleenan
For the defendant, Morrisons
11KBW’s Anya Proops, instructed by DWF partner Andrew Harris
Domestic abuse privacy breach: Greater Manchester Police pays victim
11 August 2016
The £75,000 payout is believed to be one of the biggest by a British police force in a privacy case
A domestic abuse victim has received £75,000 from a police force after it revealed details of her treatment by a former boyfriend without her consent.
The unnamed woman had agreed Greater Manchester Police (GMP) could refer to her experience in a training session providing she remained anonymous.
However, she later learned her identity and medical history were disclosed to a wider audience.
GMP has apologised and said "steps" had been taken to stop similar occurrences.
The victim's solicitor said the payout was believed to be one of the biggest by a British force in a privacy case.
In a witness statement, the woman, who agreed to an out-of-court settlement, said she "felt betrayed by GMP".
The errors in this case by Greater Manchester Police almost beggar belief. Safeguarding victims is the most important priority in domestic violence police work.
Revealing a victim's identity, medical history and distressed 999 call, against their wishes, represents very grave mistakes. This episode is hardly likely to increase victims' confidence in the police.
The case also illustrates the use of part of the civil law that has principally been seen in cases involving celebrities whose privacy has been breached by newspapers.
'Misuse of private information' has been argued in a number of cases. It relies on a breach of Article 8 of the 1988 Human Rights Act; the right to respect for a private and family life.
The claimant has to establish they have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the information concerned, and that privacy has been breached.
The media can argue the claimant's right to privacy is outweighed by the right to freedom of expression and that there is a public interest in publishing. The police have no such defence.
This case shows that Article 8 is not simply for celebrities and that public bodies, such as the police, can be sued if they breach it.
Nick McAleenan, from JMW Solicitors, described his client as a "successful, professional woman".
He said she "suffered psychiatric harm" after learning that her personal information was disclosed and that a tape of her 999 call following an assault was played at a training session.
He added GMP had initially refused to accept it had done anything wrong and its internal investigation concluded no officer had infringed the police code of conduct.
In May 2014, the force admitted breaching the woman's privacy but refused to acknowledge she had suffered distress or loss as a result which would entitle her to any damages.
GMP admitted they had made an "unacceptable mistake"
Mr McAleenan said: "This is information out there in the public domain. She can't put the genie back in the bottle and it's something that she is going to have to live with for the rest of her life".
The lawyer also said: "People can be a bit blase about data privacy breaches and think it doesn't really matter, but it can have serious consequences as this case shows."
He added: "People rely on the police to protect them and to protect their information."
A GMP spokeswoman said it was "an exceptional case", adding: "The force has taken action to protect the individual's information to prevent any issue in the future."
She added: "We have apologised to the woman involved. This was an unacceptable mistake; however, it was done with the best of intentions as part of training for partner agencies around recognising the signs of domestic abuse."
A spokesperson from the domestic abuse charity, Women's Aid, said: "Survivors of domestic abuse should be able to expect the highest standards from the police - and the police should be extremely careful when dealing with survivors.
"The survivor in question could have been put in a very dangerous situation; highly manipulative perpetrators of domestic abuse will stop at nothing to find out where their former partner is, or to gather information on them."
Who, what, why: What laws currently cover trolling?
Who, What, Why
The Magazine answers the questions behind the news
20 October 2014
Internet trolls could face two years in jail under new laws. But how does the British legal system currently police online abuse, asks Tom de Castella.
The sending of rape threats to Chloe Madeley is the latest disturbing case of trolling. Now the government says it will act to put trolls in jail for two years.
Nick McAleenan, a media lawyer at JMW Solicitors, says there are three main ways that trolls are prosecuted at the moment.
In England and Wales, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 covers comments that cause "distress or anxiety". Similar legislation applies in Northern Ireland. Sean Duffy was jailed under the act for 18 weeks in 2011 after he made "grossly offensive" comments about children who had killed themselves. Then there's the Communications Act 2003 which applies across the United Kingdom. It covers threats but often overlaps with the 1988 act, McAleenan says. It was used to jail a man who posted offensive messages aimed at the families of Jade Goody and John Paul Massey, a Liverpool boy mauled to death by a dog.
The third Act is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which deals with stalking both on and offline. It applies in England and Wales, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar legislation. It can be pursued in both civil and criminal courts. It might have been used to prosecute Brenda Leyland, who killed herself after she was revealed to have sent up to 50 tweets a day about the parents of Madeleine McCann. It might be argued that what she did could also have been prosecuted under libel law.
The police are often reluctant to get directly involved in online stalking, McAleenan says. But recently there has been a rise in the police issuing warnings - known as a Police Information Notice - to suspected trolls.
Malicious Communications Act 1988 - messages causing distress
Communications Act 2003 - threats
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - stalking
But no clear definition of trolling
Critics sometimes question the balance between enforcement and the right to free speech. It can be a fine line. When someone on Twitter accused Tom Daley of letting down his dead father by not winning gold at the London Olympics, the police made an arrest, apparently under the 1988 act. And the 2003 act was used to convict a man who made a joke about blowing up Robin Hood airport in 2010. It was later quashed after a campaign backed by comedians. McAleenan believes the current laws are sufficient. The problem is a lack of resources, and the need for further education of the public and police about what constitutes an offence.