October 30, 2015

Data Subject Access Requests

In Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing LLP [2015] EWHC 2366, the High Court considered whether to enforce a data subject access request made in the context of impending litigation.

A number of individuals made a data subject access request (DSAR) to a law firm for disclosure of all data held about them. It was accepted that the DSAR was made in the context of litigation, with a view to obtaining early disclosure of information which would otherwise only have been disclosed much later in the proceedings. The law firm refused to comply with the DSAR and the individuals applied to the High Court to enforce it. The High Court declined to do so. It said that the purpose of the DSAR is to enable an individual to find out what information a third party holds about them and whether it is being processed lawfully; to obtain information for use in litigation was not a proper purpose. The Court also said that it would be unreasonable and disproportionate to force the law firm to carry out the necessary internal searches; they would need to go through the time-consuming and costly exercise of considering whether the information was protected by legal professional privilege, which would far outweigh the £10 fee paid by each individual to the law firm.

While this is not an employment case, it is still relevant for employers which receive DSARs from current or former employees in the context of litigation. However, it should be noted that leave to appeal has been granted, and until the Court of Appeal gives its judgment, this decision should be treated with caution.

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