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News: Home Secretary ordered to pay damages in asylum seekers’ privacy claim

Home OfficeMr Justice Mitting has ordered the Home Secretary to pay a total of £39,500 to 6 asylum seekers whose confidential information was accidentally published on a website and then republished on an American document sharing site.

The Judge gave judgment today in the case of TLT and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department, after a trial which began on Monday 20 June 2016.

The 6 claimants comprised one family group and three individual women from different countries. Each had made an application for asylum. In October 2013 the Home Office accidentally published a spreadsheet which contained confidential information about all almost 1,600 people in the family returns process, and their family members.

In four of the cases, the publication comprised the claimant’s name, age, whether they were seeking asylum and some details of the stage the process had reached, and the area in which their application was made. In two of the cases the applicants were not named but described as family members.

Although information was taken off the Home Office website after 2 weeks, the Claimants explained how shocked and upset they had been, and evidence was given to the Court that at least one foreign Government may have accessed the information and detained some of the Claimants’ family members abroad as a result.

Mr Justice Mitting found that the accidental publication of this information was a misuse of personal information and a breach of the Data Protection Act in relation to all 6 claimants.

He made awards of damages of £12,500 in two cases, £6,000 in one case, £3,000 in two cases and £2,500 in respect of the child. He also ordered the Home Secretary to pay all the costs of the Claimants’ including in one case an additional amount of costs and interest because a reasonable offer to settle had not been accepted.

The Home Secretary faces the prospect of other claims as almost 1,600 people’s details were also published in the same document.

Sara Mansoori, instructed by Tamsin Allen of Bindmans LLP acted for the claimant.  Tamsin Allen said:

“The Home Office has admitted that the blunder was a misuse of the Claimants’ private information and a breach of the Data Protection Act. Despite this, the Home Secretary had argued that this was not a case where damages should be paid. It is well recognised that a person fleeing persecution has the right to make an application for asylum in confidence without the risk of their persecutors being alerted. These vulnerable claimants were very distressed upset and scared on learning about the publication and are all pleased to have had their serious distress recognised by the Court in an award of damages.”

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