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Home Office not to be trusted with data protection exemptions

23 April 2018

Exempting the Home Office from new data protection rules could lead to serious miscarriages of justice, the Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Council warned today.

The Data Protection Bill currently before Parliament exempts the Home Office from personal data requests prompting Law Society president Joe Egan to warn the Bill will undermine the ability of British and EU citizens, as well as other non-UK nationals, to challenge unlawful deportation or detention.

“Recent events have shown how important it is to be able to scrutinise Home Office decision making,” he said.

“The GDPR and Data Protection Bill are based on accountability and transparency and the proposed exemption completely flies in the face of these principles.

“Anyone seeking their own personal data from the Home Office could be denied access without justification and with no avenue to appeal.

“With serious flaws in the immigration system being exposed on a daily basis, there is deep concern about the potential for miscarriages of justice if the proposed exemptions were to be included in the final Bill.”

Chair of the Bar Andrew Walker QC said: “It seems that the government is determined to press ahead with changes in the law that could make it even more difficult for people, including those of the Windrush generation, to demonstrate that they have the right to live in the UK.

“If the new law is brought into force in the form the government wants, then those Commonwealth citizens – and many others – who are lawfully living and working in the UK will be denied the right to know what information the Home Office holds about them, which could make the difference between success and failure in a legal challenge to their wrongful detention or removal.

“The Home Office has a notoriously bad track record for unlawful decision-making, which can have catastrophic consequences for people who are detained indefinitely in removal centres or wrongfully deported.

“Giving the Home Office the right to decide not to share the data it holds about those it is trying to deport or detain will be to give it more power than it has shown it is competent to use. The legal profession’s concerns about the Bill were first raised many months ago, and we would urge the government to listen to them, even at this late stage.”

The Law Society and Bar Council are calling on all parties to remove the immigration control exemption from the Data Protection Bill and leave the Home Office subject to the same rules as everybody else.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Chris Steer | +44 (0)20 7316 5624

About the Bar Council

Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • the Bar’s high-quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
  • fair access to justice for all
  • the highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
  • the development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board