The claim for judicial review of the Metropolitan police conduct in relation to the phone hacking investigation ended today in victory for the claimants.   The Administrative Court granted a declaration of a breach of Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights in terms had been agreed between the parties.  The police also agreed to pay the claimants costs and to an order that they send “letters of regret” to each of the Claimants, apologising personally for the distress caused by their failures to provide information about phone hacking.

The claimants, Chris Bryant, Lord Prescott, Brian Paddick, Ben Jackson and HJK had alleged that the police had breached their positive obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide them with information about phone hacking, failing to respond to their requests and failing to carry out an effective investigation. Permission to make the application was granted by Foskett J on 23 May 2011 ([2011] EWHC 1314 (Admin)).

At a hearing today before Gross LJ and Irwin J, the Metropolitan Police accepted that that they breached their duties under Article 8.  The parties jointly submitted that the Court should make a declaration that there had been a breach of Article 8.  The Court granted a declaration in the following terms

“In breach of its duties under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in circumstances where the interference with the individuals’ right to respect for their private lives may have amounted to the commission of a criminal offence, the Defendant failed to take prompt, reasonable and proportionate steps to ensure that those identified as potential victims of voicemail interceptions were made aware of:

(a)          The interference with their right to respect for private life that may have occurred;

(b)          The possibility of continuing threats, where such threats had been identified;

(c)          The steps they might take to protect their privacy; and

(d)          Following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings against Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, the identity of those whom the police believed to be primarily responsible for the interception.

Such steps should have included informing the public generally, by announcements in the media, through the mobile telephone companies, or otherwise (and included, where appropriate, individual notification)”.

In a short judgment, the Court made it clear that whilst it would make the declaration sought, it made it clear that the declaration would not serve as a precedent in any other case.

The claimant’s solicitors, Bindmans LLP, have put out a press release about the decision.  Partner Tamsin Allen said

“The legal obligation to warn victims of privacy violations in the phone-hacking case has now been made clear.  But at the time of the first investigation into phone-hacking, instead of warning the hundreds or thousands of victims of voicemail interceptions, the police made misleading statements which gave comfort to News International and permitted the cover-up to continue.  If the police had complied with their obligations under the Human Rights Act in the first place, the history of the phone-hacking scandal would have been very different”.