Yao Bekoe v The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Islington

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeSusie Alegre
Judgment Date05 July 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] EWHC 1668 (KB)
CourtKing's Bench Division
Docket NumberCase No: QB-2019-000780
Yao Bekoe
The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Islington

[2023] EWHC 1668 (KB)



Case No: QB-2019-000780




Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Gervase de Wilde (instructed by Direct Access Claimant

Alex Cunliffe (instructed by London Borough of Islington Legal Services Defendant

Hearing dates: 13–14 June 2023

Approved Judgment

This judgment was handed down remotely at 10.30am on 5 th July 2023 by circulation to the parties or their representatives by e-mail and by release to the National Archives.




This is a claim for misuse of private information and breach of rights under the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). The Defendant, the Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Islington (“LBI”) is the London Borough where the Claimant, Mr Yao Bekoe has lived since 1962, and owns property.


The factual background to the claim is complex. I will not set out all the details here, rather I will summarise the essential points to the extent necessary for this judgment. The claim arises out of litigation brought during 2015 and 2016 (“the Possession Claim”) by the Defendant, LBI, for possession of property (“the Property”) belonging to Mrs Sobesto (now deceased), an elderly neighbour of Mr. Yao Bekoe. The Possession Claim followed on from proceedings in the Court of Protection in 2014 and 2015 (“the Court of Protection Proceedings”) in which LBI was appointed as Deputy for Mrs Sobesto who had been taken into a care home in 2013 as her health declined. Mr Bekoe challenged the deputyship appointment but was unsuccessful. Prior to these legal proceedings, Mr Bekoe says he had an informal arrangement with Mrs Sobesto and her family whereby he managed and let out flats in the Property on her behalf with the income being intended to help pay for her care.


The first claim in these proceedings is that the Defendant misused private and confidential information relating to Mr Bekoe's finances (“the Private Information”) by accessing it and sharing it during the Possession Claim. The Private Information included the account number and sort code of several of the Claimant's bank accounts, mortgage accounts and mortgage balances providing a snapshot of his general financial affairs at the time. That private information was provided by the Defendant to the County Court in the Possession Proceedings. The Claimant says that the Defendant obtained the private information without a legal basis.


The second claim is about the Defendant's conduct in relation to a Data Subject Access Request (“DSAR”) which the Claimant says was originally sent to the Defendant on 10 December 2018. There was some dispute between the parties as to the date when the DSAR was first sent and received by the Defendant. However, it was accepted by both parties that, for the purposes of these proceedings, the DSAR was acknowledged by the Defendant on 22 May 2019, and breach of the DSAR started from 19 June 2019. This was admitted by the Defendant.


In addition to the alleged delay in responding to the DSAR, the Claimant claims that the Defendant was responsible for a series of further infringements of his rights under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), including failing to disclose further data and destroying his personal data in the form of the legal file which related to ongoing proceedings.

The facts

Witness Evidence


The Claimant provided a witness statement and gave evidence in the trial including evidence in response to late disclosure from the Defendant which had been received after his witness statement dated 4 August 2022. There was no need to call the Claimant's other witness, Lucilda Stewart, who gave evidence about the sending of the DSAR in December 2018, as it was accepted that the claim for breach of GDPR related to delays from 19 June 2019 only.


The Defendant put forward two witnesses, Karen Mitchell, a Senior Litigation Lawyer within the Resources Department of LBI and Leila Ridley, Head of Information Governance and DPO within the Resources Department of LBI. Neither witness had any personal knowledge of the facts underlying the two claims.



There is a complex history to this claim and I will set out a brief summary of key dates and elements here.

Misuse of Private Information


Mrs Sobesto, an elderly neighbour who lived next door to the Claimant for many years, was taken into care in 2013. The Claimant, Mr. Bekoe continued to let out flats in the Property and organised for maintenance work on it after she was taken into care.


The Defendant applied for deputyship for Mrs Sobesto on 11 June 2014 and an order was made by the Court of Protection for deputyship on 23 August 2014. Meanwhile, in June 2014, the Claimant had found tenants for the Property and on 15 August 2014 he had entered into Shorthold Tenancy Agreements for the property, he says acting on behalf of Mrs Sobesto. On 19 September 2014, the Claimant received a letter addressed to one of the tenants by the Defendant, which is when the Claimant says he first learned of the deputyship.


On 21 November 2014, the Defendant reported suspicions of fraud against the Claimant to the Metropolitan Police. The Claimant met with Mr Micklewright, an employee of LBI, on 25 November 2014. When the Claimant later contacted the police for more information about the resulting police report, he says he was told that the police had sent a report to the Defendant saying there was no evidence of criminality and declining to pursue the matter.


The Defendant started the Possession Claim against the Claimant for the property on 23 April 2015. A County Court Order for possession and damages was made on 13 July 2015. It appears that the inquiries made about the Claimant's financial affairs by the Defendant that are the subject of the misuse of private information claim took place in July 2015 against the background of the Possession Claim. On 15 July 2015, Radha Pillai, a Legal Services Officer at the Defendant sent an email to Chris Lobb, an employee at the Defendant. This email, for which the full surrounding chain was only disclosed immediately prior to the trial on 8 June 2023 read:

“We have evidence of fraud by Mr Yao Bekoe. He rented a property (….) belonging to a neighbour (service user) who is in care and he has received the rental income of approximately £40,000–£50,000…

We need evidence of his bank accounts to verify if he received the rental income in his bank accounts…

Please confirm if you can carry out checks on Mr Bekoe. We need evidence if he owns […..], bank accounts, records of previous criminal offences. i.e. fraud/theft, and if he owns other properties.”


On 20 July 2015, Lotte Wentworth, a Legal Officer at the Defendant, emailed Bob Knightley, a Local Government Officer at the Defendant asking for the Claimant's account numbers. The Private Information was then put before the County Court on an application for disclosure. By an order dated 20 August 2015, the Claimant was ordered to give specific disclosure to the Defendant in relation to the seven bank and building society accounts which had been identified in what the Defendant called the “Basic Investigation”.


On 28 September 2015 Lotte Wentworth sent a further email to Bob Knightley asking for branch details. He responded on 29 September 2015 and by application notice dated 30 September 2015, the Defendant made an application for an order for disclosure against the banks responsible for those seven accounts. LBI exhibited to Mr Micklewright's Witness Statement in support of the application a letter to Barclays Bank PLC which said “we are currently working with Islington Police concerning suspected financial abuse perpetrated against Mrs Sobesto”. The order for disclosure was made on this basis on 24 November 2015.



The Claimant sent the Defendant a letter of claim on 10 December 2018 and went on to issue a Claim Form in a Part 8 Claim on 6 March 2019. The Defendant acknowledged service for the Part 8 claim on 21 March 2019 and acknowledged receipt of a DSAR from the Claimant on 22 May 2019. While the Claimant said that a Data Subject Access Request had been sent along with the letter of claim, this was not pursued and therefore 22 May 2019 was the effective date from which timing related to the GDPR claim started to run. The Part 8 Claim was stayed by Order of Master Gidden on 23 May 2019.


The Defendant issued its first response to the DSAR on 24 June 2019. The Claimant wrote to the Defendant on 17 September 2019 to complain about that response and the Defendant replied, to apologise, on 17 October 2019. On 21 January 2020 the Claimant made a second complaint about the DSAR response and the Defendant replied on 30 January 2020.


According to Karen Mitchell, witness for the Defendant, Lotte Wentworth left LBI on 15 December 2020 and the legal file relating to the Possession Claim was destroyed around that time.


Proceedings in this Claim continued through 2021 with an exchange of witness statements on 4 August 2022. During the week prior to the trial before me, the Defendant provided further disclosure material including additional emails and documents that the Claimant had not seen previously. In particular, this included (1) a Witness Statement made by Mr Micklewright in the Court of Protection Proceedings in 2015, (2) the full surrounding chain of emails relating to the request made by Ms Pillai on 15 July 2015, (3) internal emails relating to the DSAR of June 2019, which referred to and discussed the possibility of Mr Knightley having undertaken “an Equifax search in respect of Mr Bekoe”, and (4) an account of...

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