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Going to Court Over Data Protection

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
Data Protection Court Action County

If you can't resolve an issue with an organisation and feel they've contravened the Data Protection Act to the extent of causing you damage and distress, you can take them to court. That's fine, but before you issue proceedings, the court will ask what steps you've taken to resolve the problem. That essentially means contacting the organisation involved and attempting to reach an agreement. In the event that can't happen and there's no ombudsman or trade association to look into your complaint, then you should go ahead with court action.

How To Proceed

You should be aware you generally have a limit of six years to bring action, which starts from the date of the cause of the action. However, if it's a personal injury claim, that limit becomes just three years.

Inform the organisation with which you have a problem that you're going to take them to court. Do it in writing, sent by recorded delivery. Offer a time frame for resolution - often a letter like this is all you need to spur a settlement.

You can begin any court action by filling out a claim form at your local County Court. The form will ask for details about yourself and the other party, details of the case and amount you're claiming in damages, if any. You'll need to pay a court fee, but if you're receiving income support or on benefits, that may be waived. Give the court two copies of the claim form and keep the other for yourself.

If you're claiming damages and the amount is £5000 or less, the court will usually assign the case to the "small claims track." If so and you win, you'll be able to claim back the filing fee, but not any other legal costs. If your claim is for a larger amount, or especially complex, it will probably go on a different track and whoever loses the case will have to cover the other party's legal costs.

The Court

After receiving your claim form, the court will forward it to the organisation (now known as the defendant). You'll be given a copy of the claim form with a case number and a "notice of issue" form, which tells how long the defendant has to respond.

From here there are several courses of action, all dependent on the defendant's response. The defendant might offer you a sum of money by way of damages; you can accept or choose to proceed to a hearing. If the defendant fails to respond you can apply for a "judgment in default," which lets the judge decide the amount of compensation.

Any small claims hearing will be held before a District Judge. If you need an interpreter, advise the court as soon as you have a hearing date. If, for some reason, you can't attend the hearing on the specified date, tell the court; an adjournment might be possible.

You can have a representative - not a solicitor - speak for you in court, but apply to the court first and tell the defendant. If the claim is being defended, you'll receive an "allocation questionnaire," in which you'll be asked how many witnesses you're calling (if this includes staff of the Information Commissioner, they can only be called as expert witnesses and only with the judge's permission).

Claiming Specific Performance

When you're applying simply to have the organisation comply with a change or removal of data, it's called a "claim for specific performance." If no damages are involved, the court can adopt what's called a Part 8 Procedure, which only involves a brief hearing. Where the case is more complex, they'll use the longer Part 7 Procedure, which is very similar to a damages hearing.

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