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Reform of data-appeals system ‘long overdue’
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan Pic: Mark Stedman, RollingNews

26 Apr 2024 / data law Print

Reform of data-appeals system ‘long overdue’

A judge in the Court of Appeal has said that reform of the system that allows multiple appeals of data-protection decisions is “long overdue”.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan made the comments in dismissing an appeal by a former employee of the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI) against a ruling by the Data Protection Commissioner.

The original case arose from a data-access request submitted to the NGI in 2010. The appellant subsequently made a complaint to the data watchdog on seven separate grounds, three of which were rejected.

‘No obvious justification’

The judge pointed out that the former NGI employee had now appealed the decision three times – the Circuit Court and High Court had previously dismissed his appeals.

He stated that the “multiplicity of appeals” provided for under the Data Protection Acts had previously been the subject of comment by the Court of Appeal.

“In our courts system, the vast majority of first instance decisions may be appealed only once. There is no obvious justification for so many appeals in this instance,” Mr Justice Noonan said.

“As this case amply demonstrates, the effect is great delay, enormous cost and a significant drain on court resources. This is not in the interests of the parties or the public,” he added.

‘Spurious appeals’

The judge described the data watchdog’s original decision as “comprehensive, careful, and made within jurisdiction”.

He added that, despite three appeals, the appellant had failed to demonstrate “a single infirmity” in that decision.

“The consequences of this relentless pursuit of spurious appeals are serious for both parties and, in particular, the appellant himself, who will likely be faced with a potentially ruinous order for the costs of all this unnecessary litigation,” the judge concluded.

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