Isma Ali v The Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMr Justice Chamberlain
Judgment Date25 April 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] EWHC 938 (KB)
Docket NumberCase No: QB-2020-000862
CourtKing's Bench Division
Isma Ali
The Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police

[2023] EWHC 938 (KB)


Mr Justice Chamberlain

Case No: QB-2020-000862



Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Jack Scott (instructed by Irvings Law) for the Claimant

Jennifer Oborne (instructed by Legal Services Bedfordshire Police) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 14 February 2023

Approved Judgment

This judgment was handed down remotely at 10.30am on 25 April 2023 by circulation to the parties or their representatives by e-mail and by release to the National Archives.

Mr Justice Chamberlain Mr Justice Chamberlain



On 1 March 2019, the claimant Isma Ali telephoned Bedfordshire Police (“the Police”), for which the defendant is responsible, to pass on information about her ex-husband, who she believed was dealing drugs. She wanted action to be taken against him and said that she believed he posed a risk to her and her children. She also made very clear that she did not want to be identified as the source of the information. She met a police officer, who made a report, which recorded that she was “frightened of repercussions from speaking to the police”. The report was passed on to the Social Services Department of Luton Borough Council (“Luton”). An employee of that department who happened to be in a relationship with Ms Ali's ex-husband unlawfully accessed and downloaded a copy of the report and passed it to him.


Ms Ali filed a claim against Luton, alleging that it was vicariously liable for the unlawful conduct of its employee. That claim should ideally have been heard with this one, but it was not. It was heard by Richard Spearman QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, in January 2022 and dismissed on 27 January 2022: see [2022] EWHC 132 (QB). Luton was held not vicariously liable for the unlawful (and indeed criminal) acts of its employee.


The present claim is brought on the basis that, although the Police had a duty to pass to Luton Borough Council the information that Ms Ali had given them, they did not need to pass on the fact that Ms Ali was the source of it. Ms Ali contends that, in doing so, they breached her rights under Articles 5 and 6 of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (“the General Data Protection Regulation or “GDPR”), misused her private information, breached her confidence and acted incompatibly with her right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) and therefore contrary to s. 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (“the 1998 Act”).

The facts


The claimant gave evidence and was cross-examined. The defendant's evidence was given by Police Sergeant Steph Webb, Andrew Taylor and Kevin Sharp. All were cross-examined.


On 1 March 2019, Ms Ali telephoned Crimestoppers in a state of distress. She said that her ex-husband had been dealing cocaine, she was scared of him and she did not want him to be around her children. She made clear that she did not want to be identified as the source of the information she was passing on. She did not want a police officer to come to the house because he had installed cameras there. She did not want to go to the police station because he knew people there. She did not want a police officer to come to her parents' house because he knew people in the vicinity. She was concerned that the police might share the recording of the conversation. The call handler, an employee of the Police, told her: “I will make sure that I write all over it that you don't want your name being shared. You haven't even told me your name so I don't even know it.”


A short time later, after she had checked the Police's databases, the call handler called Ms Ali back. Ms Ali was worried because the call handler now had her name and number. They agreed that a police officer would meet Ms Ali in a nearby Asda car park. Ms Ali again made clear her concern that she should not be identified.


Steph Webb (then a Police Constable, now a Police Sergeant) was in the vicinity with a student officer, PC Norman. They were asked to meet Ms Ali. They were told that Ms Ali had reported domestic incidents involving her ex-partner. PC Webb called Ms Ali, who asked her not to activate her body worn camera when they met. She remembers having to arrange several meeting places. They finally met at the third one. She recalled that Ms Ali refused to get out of her car because she was paranoid about people driving past and recognising her. This level of anxiety made PC Webb concerned. There was at least one child in the back seat behind Ms Ali.


While at the roadside, there were points where Ms Ali was upset. PC Webb completed a crime report and a DASH form. (DASH stands for “domestic abuse, stalking and honour-based violence”.) The form poses questions. Question 2 was “Are you very frightened?” The answer was “Yes. Frightened of repercussions from speaking to police.” Question 3 was “Are you afraid of further injury or violence? If so, please give an indication of what the abuser might do and to whom? (E.g. kill themselves or injure the children)”. The answer was “Yes. He has never hit me before, but Im [sic] worried he could. I think he is a violent person.” Question 14 was “Is the abuse getting worse?”. The answer was “Yes. He has brought drugs into the house near our children. I have heard him talking about dealing and threats to destroy anyone who defies him. I don't know who this is about but it worries me.” Question 15 was “Does the abuser try to control everything you do and/or are they excessively jealous? (In terms of relationship, who you see, being ‘policed at home’, telling you what you wear for example. Consider honour based violence and stalking and specify this behaviour.)” The answer was “Yes. He has access to my CCTV cameras so can monitor whos [sic] at my house. This isn't stalking behaviour but it means I am worried to contact police as he would see they have come to my home and ask me what about.”


PC Webb completed a child risk assessment which gave a “risk rating” of “medium” and contained the following justification:

“[The children] reside at Perrymead with their mother, Isma. Badar is the father of both children. Although the children appear well cared for, appear fit and well, look healthy and well nourished, the nature of this report concerns Badar keeping large quantities of cocaine at the address they reside. This exposes them to the risks of coming into contact with this drug and also exposes them to the risk of drug related crime occurring at that address. There is also suspicious [sic] that Badar consumes drugs and may be in an intoxicated state around them, presenting further risk to them. In addition to this, Isma suspects that Badar has access to firearms. This is unconfirmed and there is no believed to be any firearms present at the location, however this presents an obvious risk if true.”


After filling in the crime report and DASH form, PC Webb had no further involvement with the case. The crime report and DASH form were passed to Andrew Taylor, who worked in the Public Protection Unit (“PPU”), which he described as “the front door to the Police's safeguarding teams”. Mr Taylor's role involved processing reports from police officers about members of the public who may be vulnerable. He explains that any report of a domestic incident where there has been a grading of medium or high risk to children will always be shared with the relevant local authority. On 2 March 2019, Mr Taylor was on duty in the PPU hub and considered the crime report and DASH form relating to Ms Ali. Having read these he concluded that there was more than sufficient information for him to make a safeguarding referral to Luton Borough Council. The safeguarding referral was generated by the Athena computer system and Mr Taylor emailed it to Luton Borough council via their secure network. Mr Taylor's evidence was that the sharing of information in this way was necessary to prevent unnecessary risks to children.


Mr Taylor was asked about the process in cross-examination. If a report was made by a neighbour (for example), the name of the reporting party would not be recorded, but where the report came from the victim, the name would always be recorded and the form would never be anonymised. It was always sent to the local authority unaltered. In his view, the risk of inappropriate disclose was met by sending the material by secure email.


About 4 weeks after the referral was made, a social worker from Luton came to visit Ms Ali. In late April or May 2019, Ms Ali's family and friends started to ask her questions about her calling the police on her ex-husband. She began to suspect that the information she had provided had been passed on. She started having panic attacks and stayed with her parents for a while before changing her mobile phone number and asking the Council to rehouse her. She came off her social media accounts and tried to hide from her ex-husband. She felt trapped and suicidal. She often cried and found it difficult to concentrate at work. She was prescribed anti-depressant medication and sleeping tablets.


Ms Ali later discovered that the reports passed by the Police to Luton had been downloaded and passed to her ex-husband by an employee of Luton, Rhully Begum, with whom he was in a relationship. She pleaded guilty before Luton Crown Court to an offence under s. 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and on 12 October 2020 was sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, together with 150 hours of unpaid work.


Meanwhile, Ms Ali made a complaint to the Police. It was dismissed on 13 October 2019 on the ground that the duty to safeguard Ms Ali's children from harm meant that they were obliged to pass on not only the information she had given them about her...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 cases
  • Yao Bekoe v The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Islington
    • United Kingdom
    • King's Bench Division
    • 5 July 2023
    ...information or breach of confidence, neither of which is relevant in this Claim. The facts in Ali v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire [2023] EWHC 938 (KB) (Chamberlain J) are quite different to this case. But I note that, in awarding the Claimant £3000 in compensation for distress under the ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT