News and Events

Are Judges' handwritten notes disclosable?

  • Posted

It is common knowledge that on conclusion of a Court or Tribunal case Judges normally provide written Judgments. For the first time, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has disclosed the handwritten notes made by a Judge during legal proceedings under the Data Protection Act 1998 (the ‘Act’).

Mr and Mrs Percival made numerous ‘Data Subject Access Requests’ to the MOJ under the Act in 2014-2015. The requests related to Employment Tribunal proceedings which had been pursued by Mr Percival and included a request for the Judge’s handwritten notes. The MOJ resisted providing the handwritten notes which were held on the Court file on the basis that they fell outside the reach of the Subject Access Request. Mr and Mrs Percival were unhappy with the reasons for the MOJ’s refusal so asked the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to conduct an assessment.

Under the Act individuals can obtain access to data held about them. This can include emails, correspondence, documents or notes. Data Subject Access Requests can be made to your employer about data it holds about you.

The ICO’s intervention resulted in the handwritten notes being disclosed to Mr Percival four years after the original hearing.

Does this increase the scope of Data Subject Access Requests to include judge’s handwritten notes? Possibly. The ICO has described the decision as ‘far reaching’. We will have to wait and see how this pans out.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. BakerLaw LLP accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.