R v Brown (Gregory)

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Judgment Date28 May 1993
Judgment citation (vLex)[1993] EWCA Crim J0528-3
Docket NumberNo. 92/2412/X2

[1993] EWCA Crim J0528-3


Before: Lord Justice Staughton Mr Justice Hidden and Mr Justice Laws

No. 92/2412/X2

Gregory Michael Brown

MR T KARK appeared on behalf of the Crown.

MR R JOHNSON appeared on behalf of the appellant.




Friday, 28th May 1993


This appeal received consideration by the single judge who took the view that the first ground which we shall comment on involves a point of law alone, so leave was not required.


The appellant was a Police Officer. He faced his trial at the Crown Court at Maidstone before Judge Waley and a jury. On 10 March 1992 he was found not guilty of—what we will call for present purposes—improper use of personal data, but guilty of attempted improper use of personal data and improper use of personal data. He was fined £500 on each count and was ordered to pay £1,750 prosecution costs. There was also a count on the indictment which also related to improper use of personal data, and at the time the learned Judge ordered a not-guilty verdict to be entered.


The case concerns the construction of a provision in the Data Protection Act 1984 and before coming to the brief facts it will be convenient to look at the relevant provisions of the section and its interpretation as defined by the subsection:

(2) "Data" means information recorded in a form in which it can be processed by equipment operating automatically in response to instructions given for that purpose.

(3) "Personal data" means data consisting of information which relates to a living individual who can be identified from that information (or from that and other information in the possession of the data user), including any expression of opinion about the individual but not any indication of the intentions of the data user in respect of that individual.


The "User" is defined in subsection 5. One can go at once to s5 (1) of the statute, which provides certain prohibitions breaches of which attract a criminal penalty.

"5 (1) A person shall not hold personal data unless an entry in respect of that person as a data user, or as a data user who also carries on a computer bureau, is for the time being contained in the register.

(2) A person in respect of whom such an entry is contained in the register shall not:

(a) hold personal data of any description other that specified in the entry;

(b) hold any such data, or use any such data held by him, for any purpose other than the purpose or purposes described in the entry;

(c) obtain such data, or information to be contained in such data, to be held by him from any source which is not described in the entry;

d) disclose such data held by him to any person who is not described in the entry; or

(e) directly or indirectly transfer such data held by him to any country or territory outside the United Kingdom other than one named or described in the entry.

(3) A servant or agent of a person to whom subsection (2) above applies shall, as respects personal data held by that person, be subject to the same restrictions on the use, disclosure or transfer of the data as those to which that person is subject under paragraphs (b), (d) and (e) of that subsection and, as respects personal data to be held by that person, to the same restrictions as those to which he is subject under paragraph (c) of that subsection."

(5) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) above or knowingly or recklessly contravenes any of the other provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence.


The appellant has a friend who is a debt collector. It was the prosecution case that they were working together in a company known as Capital Investigations and that the appellant used or attempted to use data stored in the police national computer for the purposes of that business. Police officers are plainly only entitled to use the police computer data for policing purposes. As we understand it, the person in respect of whom there is an entry on the register as a data user will be the Chief Constable of the Kent Constabulary, and a policeman such as Mr Brown will be a servant or agent of the Chief Constable. It is the principal to which s5(1) refers.


Capital Investigations was engaged...

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2 books & journal articles
  • Recent Judicial Decisions
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    • Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles Nbr. 71-1, January 1998
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    ...statutory policy expressedin s.28( I) of the Data Protection Act 1984 and with the policyrecognized by the court in R.v.Brown (Gregory) [1994] QB 547 andHellewellv.ChiefConstableofDerbyshire [1995] I WLR 804.Judged against those tests the policy adopted by the North WalesPolice was not open......
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