Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 14th May 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Chair, EU Justice Sub-Committee 5:00 pm, 14th May 2018

My Lords, I was here during the previous amendment; of course I was. I was here in relation to the whole matter concerning this amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. I heard the references from the Front Bench to the particular part of the argument that has just been conducted, and I was here to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, speak about what was happening with this amendment and what had happened in the Commons. I shall carry on because I do not accept the comment made by the noble Lord.

I support the position of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, for a number of reasons. One is that the question of ethics, and the ethics of the media, has really not been dealt with adequately so far. The other matters that really concern me are those concerning the police. So far, I am afraid, the police have got off rather lightly in the course of investigations into what took place regarding media misbehaviour. Unlike other lawyers—I know my noble friend Lord Prescott has a poor view of lawyers—I do not act for newspapers and have not done, nor do I have a column in any newspaper. However, I have acted for victims who have gone through court processes, I have acted for defendants who are on trial and I have acted in inquests, and I have to say that the story with regard to police behaviour is not good. Too often—I know this from direct experience—there have been leaks and tip-offs to the media by the police when people have been invited into police stations to be interviewed. Perhaps they are suspected or they are going to assist in an inquiry, but they end up being met at the police station doors by photographers and journalists. They are exposed to speculative pieces about why they were being seen by the police, and often they are chased and stalked by the paparazzi as a result.

You have to ask yourself why that happens. I am afraid that journalists covering criminal courts over the years have told me that often they would basically have police officers in their back pockets, and that meant the pocket that had their wallet in it. What was offered to police were bungs, pay-offs and “drinks”, as they were called euphemistically, for providing those tip-offs. They happen still, and they have happened subsequent to the Leveson inquiry: people who have been asked to come to police stations to be interviewed with regard to sexual matters but have not been charged—and no charges have, in the end, been forthcoming—have found themselves over the front pages of newspapers. At this very moment, Sir Cliff Richard is involved in litigation regarding that kind of collusion and coalition between the media and the police. I am concerned that the police still not have not been looked at adequately for the role they have played in some of this particularly iniquitous conduct.

The second part of Leveson seems of real importance to the well-being of our nation. If there is corruption in our police—if they are able to do this and to supplement their incomes by doing it, and there is money available in the media to do it—we know that something is seriously wrong. I hope the House has that in mind. Sometimes the purpose of a public inquiry is to air such matters and make clear the seriousness with which such corruption and misbehaviour is viewed.

I give the horrifying example of a very distinguished television journalist who, back when paedophilia was first being investigated, became a cause for concern. She and her husband had put some photographs into Boots the chemist, in the good old days when that was how you did it. She put a reel of negatives in to be made into snaps, and the person at the Boots laboratory handed them over to the police because there were photographs of their little daughter standing up in the bath and her daddy, who was shaving at the time, had sprayed his shaving foam on to her in the shape of a bikini. The photographs were handed over to the police and the couple were asked to come to the police station. When they arrived at Holborn police station, the media were there in full throng to photograph them, with salacious accounts given of why they might be there, the inference being that they were involved in some sort of nefarious conduct.

Of course, in the end it was all dropped and apologies were made, but that was not satisfactory because of the ugliness of what that family went through. You have to ask how such things happen. The same story is told by Paul Gambaccini and many people who went through similar experiences recently, when they were never charged but were exposed to such coverage.

Lawyers will tell you that another thing that happens too often is that clients tell them that, after a case is over, suddenly, intimate photographs from their family album appear in newspapers and they cannot understand how it happened. When their home was raided, photographs were stolen from family albums by police officers and then sold to the press. Is this satisfactory? Is it not right that we should look at this to drive home its unacceptability?

I am in favour of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and I think we all should be. It addresses really unsatisfactory conduct, which will be properly dealt with only if there is an inquiry and the police are held to account.