Christopher Knight in Successful Defence of Police National Computer Records


In R (QSA, Broadfoot & ARB) v National Police Chiefs’ Council & Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 272 (Admin), the Divisional Court rejected a challenge to the compatibility with Article 8 ECHR of the NPCC’s policy that all conviction records on the Police National Computer (“PNC”) are retained until the subject reaches 100 years of age (known as the ‘100 year rule’).

The judgment is the latest in long-running litigation, originally issued in 2017, brought by the Claimants against the Home Office. The Claimants are all former street prostitutes, who have long since successfully exited prostitution and who are distressed by the continued retention of their convictions for offences under section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959 on the PNC. They argued that the 100 year rule was, in their cases, not in accordance with the law and was disproportionate.

The Divisional Court (Bean LJ and Garnham J) rejected the claim. It considered the case law on in accordance with the law in detail and held that, following the Supreme Court’s analysis in R (P, G & W) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] 2 AC 185, the 100 year rule was clear and foreseeable and met the standards of legality.

As to proportionality, the Divisional Court accepted the extensive evidence of the Defendants on the need for a comprehensive register of convictions for both policing needs and the needs of the wider criminal justice system, as had been previously accepted by the Court of Appeal in a data protection context in Chief Constable of Humberside Police v Information Commissioner [2010] 1 WLR 1136. The wider public interest in the policy far outweighed the personal interest of the Claimants in the deletion of their conviction records.

Christopher Knight – led by Kate Gallafent QC – has acted for the Secretary of State throughout the QSA litigation, instructed by the Government Legal Department.

The judgment can be read here.