In a potentially significant decision handed down on Friday (27 January), the Court of Appeal confirmed that it was not an abuse of process for a claimant to bring a claim for unfair and inaccurate data processing under the Data Protection Act 1998 alongside a claim for libel.
In HH Prince Moulay Al Alaoui v. Elaph Publishing Limited, which arose from publication on the defendant's website of an article alleging that the Prince was devious and disloyal, the claimant was permitted to amend his existing libel claim to add a claim for breaches of the first and fourth data protection principles (that personal data should processed "fairly and lawfully" and should be accurate).
Lord Justice Simon held that there was "no good reason of principle why a claim under the DPA cannot be linked to a defamation claim". Further, the Court held that, if the article was not defamatory (which now means that it has caused or is likely to cause "serious harm" to the claimant's reputation), nonetheless "the DPA claim may found an appropriate alternative means of redress".
This decision is not only the latest example of the increasing convergence of the law of defamation and of information, but provides useful additional, or alternative, legal leverage in a situation where there may be some doubt as to whether the material in question is, from a strictly legal perspective, defamatory.
The full judgment may be read here