Two Burmese nationals currently on trial in Thailand for the murder of British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge have been denied an application made under the Data Protection Act 1998 ("DPA") to access a report commissioned by the Metropolitan Police (the "Met"). The men face the death penalty if found guilty.
The report was produced by the Met with the precondition that the reports contents be kept confidential at the request of the Thai authorities. The report was produced to brief the victims families and was limited to observing and recording the investigation due to the UK governments policy not to assist foreign authorities in death penalty cases.
The claimants sought access to the report under the data protection legislation on the grounds that it could be helpful to their defence. The claimants application had previously been rejected by the British Police on the grounds of public interest. The High Court reinforced the decision despite the claimants submission that such conditions should not be considered in cases where the punishment is death.
The judge ruled that such disclosure risked undermining international cooperation with 'disclosure of even a small portion of the report' 'having a serious chilling effect because even a minor release could be seen by foreign counterparts as reflecting a more systemic risk that the ability to enter into confidentiality would be subject to override by the courts.' Adding that 'there is nothing in the personal data which would be of any real value to the claimants.'
Although Mr Justice Green commented that he had felt some unease in reaching his decision due to his lack of direct knowledge of how the evidence had been delivered in the trial or how the claimants had structured their defence.