Case study: a case of protection

A grandmother ended up with a caution for child abduction, after disappearing with her baby grandson for a day to prevent his departure to Australia following a breakup of her son’s marriage. Following a change in policy, the caution was to remain on her criminal record for life. When she later sought a job in healthcare for which she was otherwise qualified, the retention of this caution on her file meant that she was denied employment. 

The Northern Irish Pro Bono Unit assisted the grandmother in bringing a claim to the European Court of Human Rights, where Brian Kennedy QC successfully argued that the retention of caution data was contrary to the Article 8 right to private life.

While the policy to retain data of this kind was intended to protect children, the law’s inflexibility meant that her individual circumstances had not been taken into consideration. The continued retention of her data here did not protect children, and instead caused harm to the grandmother in preventing her from securing employment. With no review process, the automatic nature of the rule was not only problematic, but damaging.

The case was followed by the Court of Appeal in England and Wales, and ultimately resulted in changes in Data Protection law. One grandmother, with the help from the pro bono team in Northern Ireland, changed the law.

You can read more about the case in the judgment and summary.