Jack Beecham found not guilty on two counts of alleged breaches of section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018
By John Brace (Editor)
First publication date: Wednesday 16th August 2023, 13:11 (BST).
On Friday 11th August 2023, at a pre-trial hearing in ICO v Jack Beecham, I was the only journalist present for two pre-trial hearings (one hearing starting at 1.14 pm ending at 2.59 pm, the second from 4.03 pm to 4.59 pm), which HHJ Murray imposed reporting restrictions on.
Although the Judicial College guidance to the judiciary states in general that such reporting restrictions would generally lapse following the trial phase, following an a representation opposing this from the press on Monday 14th August 2023 HHJ Murray decided to continue with such restrictions in the interests of justice.
Multiple requests to the Liverpool Crown Court for a copy of the order restricting reporting have either been ignored or not complied with. It is therefore somewhat of a challenge to comply with (or even apply to vary) judicial orders that the Court refuses to supply.
However, that aside, I can report what happened on Monday 14th August 2023.
ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) had brought a private prosecution against Mr Jack Beecham (of Birkenhead) alleging breaches of section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018.
Jack Beecham had previously pled not guilty (to both counts on the indictment), and Monday 14th August 2023 was supposed to be the first day of the jury trial.
The trial had been delayed from its original start date of 7th November 2022.
However on Monday 14th August 2023, no jury was sworn in and that part of the court room remained empty.
On behalf of ICO, Miss Anam Khan explained that following a review to reconsider the public interest test in proceeding with a trial, in light of a lengthy trial that would exceed the time, it would be considered a disproportionate use of resources to continue, therefore the prosecution proposed to offer no evidence as the public interest test was no longer met.
HHJ Murray explained to Mr Jack Beecham (who was unrepresented) that the prosecution was offering no evidence so he would be entering not guilty verdicts, did Mr Jack Beecham have anything to say?
Mr Jack Beecham (the Defendant) had nothing to say about that.
HHJ Murray said that Mr Jack Beecham was not guilty on the two counts put to him and two counts of not guilty would both be entered on the record as verdicts, he thanked Miss Khan for reconsidering the issue and asked Mr Beecham if he had anything to say?
Mr Jack Beecham said it had been a stressful time for him and that lots of things had been said about him at a number of hearings that were not absolutely true, he wanted his stress to be taken into consideration, as there had been the same opportunity on Friday to make the same decision as today which was fine, only to say that from his point of view he had identified a lot of things since Friday’s hearing, with regards to the “bad blood” between the Defendant and Merseyside Police, there was lots of evidence of grievances, however Mr Jack Beecham wanted his own personal data rectified and referred to a dishonest Merseyside Police officer.
HHJ Murray asked the Defendant if he had anything to say about the not guilty verdict and did the Defendant intend to make any applications in the case?
Mr Jack Beecham asked what type?
HHJ Murray said the Court had a power to make a costs order from Central Funds to a defendant and was the Defendant inviting him to make such an order?
Mr Jack Beecham said he had spent over 1,500 hours on the case over the last 12 months.
HHJ Murray and ICO’s barrister Miss Khan discussed what was written in the 2023 edition, page 2529 in Blackstones. Miss Khan mistakenly referred to the “Crown’s representations”. Miss Khan quoted that such orders from Central Funds in favour of a Defendant were for expenses properly incurred and that in terms of the Defendant’s time it was silent, but wouldn’t be chargeable.
HHJ Murray asked if ICO was in principle in favour of a Defendant’s costs order, followed by asking if there were any reasons why there shouldn’t be any?
Miss Khan stated that there had been a legal aid certificate which may prevent a costs order being made.
HHJ Murray said that he didn’t think it prevented him making a Defendant’s costs order, for travel expenses and the like for attending hearings.
Miss Khan said yes, she saw his point but it would be limited to expenses, no private payment of legal fees.
HHJ Murray said that it was a different set of law that there were hoops to jump through regarding legal aid.
Miss Khan said that the costs order should be limited to expenses, and that they do not disagree with an order made to that effect.
HHJ Murray referred to a separate rule regarding contributions to legal aid in cases that are not proceeded with, but if Miss Khan didn’t deal with legal aid cases Miss Khan may have not come across it.
Miss Khan said she didn’t deal with legal aid cases, but looking at the implications of offering no evidence, dealing with a Defendant’s cost order, circumstances might apply, usually if an individual was legally aided it wouldn’t be paid out of Central Funds.
HHJ Murray asked the Defendant if he had legal aid?
Jack Beecham said up to the 7th November hearing.
HHJ Murray asked him if he’d had to pay contributions?
Jack Beecham said no, but he didn’t know if he’d got to pay in the future.
HHJ Murray replied, to which Jack Beecham said he hadn’t at this point and asked what they were talking about?
HHJ Murray said he had a feeling it wouldn’t be straightforward, not gulity verdicts had been entered, now the costs provisions of legal aid, had the Defendant had to make contributions, he hadn’t made any?
Jack Beecham replied, “No, Your Honour”.
HHJ Murray said that he would not make an order regarding legal costs, however Miss Khan agreed the Defendant could make an application for travel expenses for Mr Beecham to attend hearings, which he would need to set out.
A long conversation off the record took place betweeen HHJ Murray and his Clerk.
HHJ Murray said that he had been asking his Clerk who knows more about it, there would be no orders for legal preparation because of the legal aid certificate.
Jack Beecham said that the legal aid ad been up to an earlier time, but he wasn’t represented to now.
HHJ Murray said he didn’t believe a claim could be made for legal preparation for a case in which a legal aid certificate had been issued, but it was his believe that the Defendant could claim for expenses relating to his attendance at the Crown Court and Magistrates Court, if he provided proof of tickets, payments, that kind of thing, was that clear, was Jack Beecham happy for that or did he wish to argue?
Jack Beecham replied, “No”.
HHJ Murray said that a Defendant’s costs order in principle would be issued to deal with travel expenses, the Defendant was to send a schedule with copies of evidence, but it wouldn’t be assessed by HHJ Murray, but someone in the office, how long did the Defendant need, two weeks?
Jack Beecham replied that was fine.
HHJ Murray said to Miss Khan was that dealt with properly?
Miss Khan answered, “Yes”.
HHJ Murray said that it would be required by 28th August, but as a tip it would be easier to set out everything for travel, not the whole background of the case, as it would be a civil servant deciding whether the right boxes had been ticked? Was there anything else?
Miss Khan said that she didn’t want him to make an order regarding non reporting of this hearing but there should be no reporting of last Friday’s hearing and the reporting restriction order should remain in place.
HHJ Murray asked why?
Miss Khan said for the reasons your Honour gave on Friday?
HHJ Murray said which are?
Miss Khan said because they were frank conversations with both parties and it was not in the interests of justice to be reported.
HHJ Murray invited representations from the press present at this point (there were three journalists present at Monday’s hearing).
The press put forward the view that continuing with the reporting restrictions order was opposed and that in general restrictions on reporting of pre-trial hearings lapsed at the end of a trial.
HHJ Murray explained that the reporting restrictions would stay in place (in relation to Friday’s hearing), the Defendant said that a lot of things on Friday really hit the nail on the head.
HHJ Murray said that the case was finished, the Defendant replied and HHJ Murray said the Defendant should be careful what he wished for.
The hearing ended.
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