Police press release violated privacy rights

Posted: 2nd March 2015

Police carA finance professional whose reputation, health and working life were blighted when he was listed as a 'most wanted' man in a police press release, and his photograph made its way onto the front page of a newspaper, has won £67,750 damages.

Anthony Crook was working abroad when his image was released to the press by Essex Police who said that they were seeking him in relation to an allegation of rape. The image, his name, and details of the allegation spread quickly around the world via the internet. He was never prosecuted but, as a result of the publicity, his lawyers said that his mental health suffered and he became unemployed.

Crook launched proceedings against the force, claiming breaches of data protection laws and violation of his human right to privacy. In upholding his case, the High Court ruled that not enough consideration had been given as to whether it was necessary in the public interest to circulate his name and photograph.

Allegations of sexual offending carried a particular stigma and more should have been done to locate him prior to the press release. No account was taken of the reality that the information was likely to be viewed globally and the difficulty of removing it from the web. The award included £5,000 in respect of his psychiatric injuries and £57,750 for his loss of earnings. Essex Police were also ordered to pay the Mr Crook’s substantial legal costs.