The Court of Appeal has surprisingly upheld a ruling which conflicts with the centuries-old right not to incriminate oneself.
The ruling came when a firm was granted the right to obtain data from an ex-employee, an IT specialist, whom they had accused of removing confidential information belonging to them. The firm obtained a search warrant permitting them to copy information from the computer hard drives on the man’s home computers. He resisted the application on the basis that his computers might contain illegal images which could result in his being prosecuted. He was content to allow them to look for relevant material, but claimed the other data on his computer was legally privileged.
The Court of Appeal supported the decision of the High Court that the data on the computer was not privileged, ruling that legal privilege was limited to oral evidence in such circumstances and did not protect data.
The practical effect is that a search which turns up information or data which is unrelated to the search could lead to unforeseen consequences, such as (in this case) a potential criminal prosecution.
An appeal to the House of Lords is expected.