Segalov, R (on the application of) v Chief Constable of Sussex Police & Anor, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, November 23, 2018, [2018] EWHC 3187 (Admin)

Resolution Date:November 23, 2018
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Segalov, R (on the application of) v Chief Constable of Sussex Police & Anor
 
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Case No: CO/60/2018

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 3187 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

(DIVISIONAL COURT)

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 23/11/2018

Before:

LORD JUSTICE SIMON

and

MR JUSTICE WARBY

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Between:

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Jude Bunting (instructed by Irvine Thanvi Natas, Solicitors) for the Claimant

Andrew Waters (instructed by Weightmans LLP) for the 1st Defendant

James Berry (instructed by Plexus Law) for the 2nd Defendant

Hearing dates: 14 November 2018

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JudgmentLord Justice Simon:

  1. This is the judgment of the Court.

    Introduction

  2. Michael Segalov (`the claimant') brings the present claim for judicial review, challenging decisions made by the first defendant (`Sussex Police') and the second defendant (`GMP'), which resulted in the refusal of his accreditation to attend the Labour Party Conference held at Brighton in September 2017 (`Party Conference').

    The parties

  3. The claimant is a political journalist and the news editor of Huck magazine. He also works as a freelance commentator for national newspapers and appears on broadcast media discussing political issues. At the material time he carried a valid press card under a scheme which is regulated by `UK Press Card Authority Limited'. This scheme is recognised by all UK police forces and by the Ministry of Justice. Since 2015, the claimant has also been an active member of the Labour Party and a commentator on its internal politics, interviewing leading members of the Labour Party, including the Leader of the Opposition. Importantly for present purposes, he has never been arrested, cautioned or reprimanded for any criminal offence.

  4. The Sussex Police was the `host' police force, responsible for the policing and security of the Conference.

  5. The Party Conference Policing Group (`PCPG') is a working group of Chief Constables, which decided that a national policing team, the National Accreditation Team (`NAT'), should be established to conduct the initial verification and screening of applicants for accreditation to secure zones at party conferences. It was decided, for convenience, that the NAT would operate from within the GMP, although its work in relation to party conferences is funded entirely by a Home Office grant and not the GMP. The NAT also covers accreditation to other large gatherings, including national sporting events.

  6. At the heart of the claim is the role played by the NAT in referring the claimant's accreditation to Sussex Police as host police force and Sussex Police's decision to refuse the claimant's accreditation to the Conference.

    The undisputed facts

  7. On 29 June 2017, the claimant applied for press accreditation to attend the Conference, which was due to start on 24 September 2017, applying as a press delegate of Huck. As the Conference date approached, and having heard nothing about his application, he raised the matter informally through contacts with the Labour Party. Eventually, in an email from the Labour Party dated 17.26 on 19 September, he was informed: `I regret to inform you that we are unable to process your application as it has not passed the necessary police security checks.'

  8. He was told that if he required further information he should write to Police Sergeant Martin Horsfield, who was described as `National Accreditation Manager, Conference Planning Unit' at the GMP Force Headquarters. The claimant assumed that a mistake had been made and tried to make contact with Sgt Horsfield by telephone. At 08.53 on 20 September he sent an email asking for information about the refusal of accreditation. At 15.13, Sgt Horsfield responded: `Unfortunately, we do not divulge the reasons for the refusal of accreditation.' The claimant was advised that he could go to a particular website for further information. The website explained how to make a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 1998.

  9. The claimant tried to contact Sgt Horsfield for more information without success. He then instructed solicitors. At 09.56 on 22 September 2017, his solicitors sent an urgent Pre-Action Protocol (`PAP') letter asking GMP to change its decision so as to allow the claimant to attend the Conference. The letter asked for an urgent substantive reply. The reply was sent at 15.30 from the GMP Legal Services Department. In short, it contended that the PAP letter had been sent to the wrong police force, it should have been directed to Sussex Police. It added that there was no practical purpose in asking the GMP to change its decision, since it had not made the decision on accreditation. A PAP letter addressed to Sussex Police on 22 September was eventually acknowledged on 23 October.

  10. As a result of the lack of accreditation, the claimant was unable to attend the Conference, although he was able to attend and participate in fringe meetings at various other venues in Brighton for which accreditation was not required. He claims that he suffered financial loss and reputational damage as a result of the decision to refuse him accreditation, for which he holds both defendants legally responsible.

    The relevant policies

    The NAT policy

  11. On 26 February 2018, the GMP disclosed a document entitled: `National Accreditation Team: Political Conference Policing Group (PCGC) Accreditation Process'. It is marked, `Restricted'. This document (the `NAT Policy') provided:

    Purpose

  12. This paper sets out the core criteria and processes for evaluating and determining applications for accreditation refusal in connection with Political Party Conference security.

    Background

  13. [GMP] National Accreditation Team (`NAT') deliver the annual national accreditation requirements for all autumn Political Party Conferences. The data is supplied by the Political Party via a secure website

    ....

  14. The NAT maintains overall responsibility for the accreditation process. If an applicant is suspected of posing a threat to the security of the Conference, the NAT will discuss the finding with the host police force. The Silver Commander and/or SecCo in the host police force, will be the decision maker as to whether the applicant is afforded accreditation or refused access.

  15. The NAT check individuals against an agreed set of Police/Intelligence databases ...

    These checks will enable cases to be classified as:

    APPROVED - checks do not reveal any issues at all

    REFERRED - checks reveal some issues for example:

    · Previous convictions/intelligence that cause concern

    ...

  16. In terms of decision making and governance it is agreed that:

    · APPROVED - The NAT have autonomy to agree these cases without ... any other third party

    · REFERRED - They will be determined by the host Conference Police force under the escalation/referral process

  17. The criteria for a referral will be one or more convictions and/or police information/intelligence regarding:

    ...

    · Violence/Assault

    · Public order

    ...

    · Terrorism

    ...

    · Protests/demonstrations, single issue group incidents

    ...

    · Mental illness

    · Fixated behaviour

    · any other types of conviction, intelligence, or matter that gives rise to concerns or doubts as to whether the person presents a threat to the security of the Conference.

    ...

  18. Unless a conviction record or local police intelligence material meets the threshold for referral, the NAT Accreditation Officer carrying out the checks may authorise the applicant's accreditation. This is based on an assessment of the relative seriousness of the issue that has come to light and the overall context of the individual case ...

  19. Paragraph 12 of the NAT Policy provided for the need for police intelligence material to satisfy a threshold criterion for referral. Where it did, an accreditation referral form would be completed, with an outline of the circumstances and reasons for referring the application to the host police force. Paragraph 13 required the referral form to be sent to the host force for consideration and a decision. Paragraph 14 provided that, if the decision of the host force were a refusal of accreditation, the NAT would inform the political party of the outcome, but `no information will be given as to the reason for refusal'. A copy of the refusal form would be stored electronically on the applicant's record, with the NAT collating and holding all referrals, and producing them on request from the Home Office. All documentation would also be held by the host police force in accordance with their retention policy. Paragraph 18 made clear that there was no right of appeal against accreditation refusal.

  20. Some of these provisions require some further explanation. First, the information about those who have applied to attend a conference would come from the relevant political party (see paragraph 2), in this case the Labour Party. Second, if the NAT did not approve accreditation it would refer it to the host force. It was the host force and not the NAT which decided whether to refuse accreditation (see paragraphs 4 and 6). In the present case the decision was made by the Sussex Police and, in particular, the Silver Commander for the Conference. Third, the criteria for consideration of whether an application should be referred included intelligence giving rise to concern or doubt as to whether an applicant presented a threat to the security of the Conference (see paragraphs 5 and 7). Among the categories in respect of which information or intelligence would justify referral were: public order, terrorism, protests/demonstrations, single issue group incidents, mental illness and fixated behaviour. The nature of some of these categories, for example, terrorism may explain why no reasons were to be given for refusal of accreditation.

    The National Accreditation Standard

  21. The National Accreditation Standard (`NAS') was an appendix to the NAT Policy. This provided...

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