Fraudster loses bid to remove report of spent criminal conviction from Newsquest online archive


A man has lost his appeal for a Newsquest newspaper to remove an archived story on his fraud conviction from its website.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) rejected the complaint that the paper was breaching the Data Protection Act 1998.

He approached the newspaper and asked it to remove the report, arguing that it happened in January 2000 and was now spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The man (not pictured in Shutterstock image above) also complained that a similar conviction against a former colleague did not appear in the newspaper’s online archive. He said this was inconsistent.

Newsquest refused to remove the material, arguing that its general policy was that it does not delete, amend or annotate material in its archives unless there is an inaccuracy.

It also said it takes the view that the 1974 Act has no bearing on retention of stories in the archive, whether or not an offence is "spent".

Newsquest argued that its archives – whether in hard copy or online – are a valuable historical record, and their integrity should be preserved as far as possible, and they should be kept indefinitely, and their creation and upkeep comply with the Data Protection Act.

Newsquest told the ICO that it was retaining the information about the man's conviction in line with section 32 of the Data Protection Act, which gives an exemption from the Act's provision for special purposes for the publication of journalistic, literary or artistic material.

The ICO said that section 32 required that four conditions had to be satisfied to enable proper application of the exemption: that data were processed only for the special purposes, that the processing was undertaken with a view to publication of journalistic material, that the data processor reasonably believed that publication was in the public interest and finally that the newspaper reasonably believed that complying with each provision of the Data Protection Act was incompatible with the purpose of journalism.

The decision, made in March, said the ICO took "a fairly broad view of what counts as 'processing only for the purposes of journalism' so as to ensure proper protection for the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights".

"If something is done with the aim of disclosing information, opinion or ideas to the public by any means, it will be for the purposes of journalism," the decision said.

It said Newsquest had highlighted that retaining reports of criminal convictions in newspaper archives did not breach the Data Protection Act, and had argued that if it did then newspaper archives in general would be impractical to operate and worthless to users.

Newsquest had also argued that hard copy archives stored at newspaper officers and in libraries had become increasingly accessible electronically as newspapers gradually digitised their archives – which explained why the report about the complainant's colleague, who was convicted seven years earlier, had not yet gone online.

The ICO said it was satisfied that publication of the article within the archive satisfied the terms of the Data Protection Act journalistic exemption.

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