Bloomberg v ZXC: UK Supreme Court finds that suspects of crime have a reasonable expectation of privacy in investigation details pre-charge

Judgment has been handed down by the UK Supreme Court in the appeal in the case of Bloomberg v ZXC. The court has found for the respondent, refusing the appeal.

The case has significant implications for the law of privacy. It endorses the finding in the Cliff Richard case and provides crucial precedent on the reasonable expectation of privacy suspects of crime can expect. TPP will have further coverage of the judgment shortly. See the judgment here.

“The courts below were correct to hold that, as a legitimate starting point, a

person under criminal investigation has, prior to being charged, a reasonable

expectation of privacy in respect of information relating to that investigation and that

in all the circumstances this is a case in which that applies and there is such an

expectation.”

at p.146

Citation: INFORRM Blog, ZXC v Bloomberg LP: Privacy and Reputational Harm – Jeevan Hariharan

The INFORRM Blog has an excellent post on the inter-related nature of privacy and reputational harms.

Whether an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy that outweighs the public interest in cases where there has been an investigation, but no charge, by the police is an imminent case before the Supreme Court in the case of ZXC v Bloomberg LP.

The case is before the UK Supreme Court on 30 November and 1 December next week and was cited by Hariharan in his analysis of the proximity between privacy and reputational harms.

The Court of Appeal judgment can be found here. The Court found that there could be a reasonable expectation of privacy in the fact of a police investigation. This builds upon notable caselaw such as the Cliff Richard case.

Quotes from caselaw 2: Sicri v Assocated Newspapers [2020] EWHC 3541 (QB) – Privacy and suspicion by the state

The rationale for the general rule, that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of information that they have come under suspicion by the state, is clear: disclosure of such information is likely to have a seriously harmful impact on the person’s reputation, and thus their private life.

Warby J. at p.55

The Sicri case concerned the publication of an article by the Mail Online following the arrest of a man for having a connection with Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi. The Mail Online did not remove the article after the claimants’ release and divulged his name via an alternative spelling, address and other identifiable details.  The claimant was successful and awarded £83,000 in damages as he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of his identity remaining private when his arrest was reported. It should be noted that this reasonable expectation was assessed at pre-charge stage.

The claimant had a right to expect that the defendant would not publish his identity as the 23-year-old man arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Manchester Arena bombing. By 12:47 on 29 May 2017, the defendant had violated that right; it had no, or no sufficient public interest justification for identifying the claimant. It continued to do so. Later, another publisher did the same or similar. But the claimant’s right to have the defendant respect his privacy was not defeated or significantly weakened by the fact that others failed to do so. He is entitled to compensation. The appropriate sum is £83,000 in general and special damages.

Warby J. at 190

This is part of our new “quotes from caselaw” series, looking to bring you short snippets from leading judgments on privacy, which highlight its importance and development.