The High Court rules on the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear claims brought under the Human Rights Act 1998 and at common law by Claimants who had formed personal relationships with undercover police officers.

Jeremy Johnson QC acted for the Applicant / Second Defendant in this case which considered the jurisdiction of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). The Claimants claim that they were deceived into becoming involved in sexual relationships with undercover police officers over a period of seven years. They issued claims in the High Court alleging that the Defendants are both vicariously and primarily liable for breaches of their ECHR Art 3, 8 and 10 rights and in tort.

The Defendants applied for the claims to be struck out or alternatively stayed on the grounds that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the HRA claims and that it would be inappropriate / abusive for the High Court to hear the common law claims which arose out of the same facts.

The central issue for the court was whether s65 of RIPA gave the IPT jurisdiction over the Claimants’ HRA claim. This required the court to decide whether the words “personal or other relationship” (s26(8) RIPA) excluded the possibility of a sexual relationship. It was common ground that if such jurisdiction was conferred by s65, then it was exclusive.

In striking out the HRA claims Mr Justice Tugendhat agreed with the Defendants that the words “personal or other relationship” did not exclude a sexual relationship: “nor is there a clear distinction between sexual and other personal relationships, such that it can be said that the sexual element in the relationship marks the distinguishing feature which should take the relationship outside the possible scope of s.26”. Accordingly the HRA claims will be tested in the IPT.

The common law claims were stayed pending the determination of the HRA claims by the IPT.

The judgment can be read in full following this link:
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2013/32.html