KOD Lyons act in successful Data Protection case against former Minister for Justice

    KOD Lyons have successfully secured a decision of the Data Protection Commissioner on behalf of Independent TD Mick Wallace which holds that the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Alan Shatter was in clear breach of the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003 when he unlawfully disclosed personal data for political purposes.

    The ruling by the Data Protection Commissioner centres on the Minister’s appearance alongside Mr Wallace on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last May in a debate on the penalty points issue. Mr Shatter disclosed information received from the then Garda Commissioner Mr Martin Callinan about an incident where Deputy Wallace had been holding his mobile phone at the Five Lamps in Dublin, prompting the TD’s complaint that he had broken the law on data protection.

    Following lengthy and thorough consideration, and extensive correspondence with both parties, the Data Protection Commissioner in a detailed decision, found that Mr Shatter was a ‘data controller’ in relation to the ‘personal data’ about Deputy Wallace and that he failed to uphold his statutory duties as a Data Controller under Section 2(1)(c)(ii) of the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003 in disclosing such sensitive data.

    In addition the Data Protection Commissioner also found that Mr Callinan was not in breach of the Data Protection Acts when he gave the information to the Minister for Justice. His decision states that the “Garda commissioner is required under section 41(d) of the Garda Síochána Act to keep the Minister…. fully informed of…any other matters that, in the Commissioner’s opinion, should be brought to the Minister’s attention”. On this basis the Data Protection Commissioner found the former Minister alone was culpable for this contravention of data protection law, and that his actions and decision to use personal data could not be considered justifiable by reference to the provisions in the Data Protection Acts.

    Mr Shatter has a right of appeal against the findings to the Circuit Court. Minister Shatter resigned from office the day after this decision was made upon the publication of further adverse findings in the Guerin Report.

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