Court of Appeal rules that suspects of crime have a reasonable expectation of privacy


Re: ZXC v Bloomberg LP [2020] EWCA Civ 611

This case concerned whether suspects of crime have a reasonable expectation of privacy and, if so, in what circumstances.  The appeal by Bloomberg against the decision of Nicklin J was dismissed. The Court of Appeal took the opportunity to make it clear that:

“those who have simply come under suspicion by an organ of the state have, in general, a reasonable and objectively founded expectation of privacy in relation to that fact and an expressed basis for that suspicion. The suspicion may ultimately be shown to be well-founded or ill-founded, but until that point the law should recognise the human characteristic to assume the worst (that there is no smoke without fire); and to overlook the fundamental legal principle that those who are accused of an offence are deemed to be innocent until they are proven guilty.”

The Court also stated that the reasonable expectation of privacy is not in general dependant on the type of crime being investigated or the public characteristics of the suspect (for example, engagement in politics or business) and that the crime need not be sexual.

This statement of the legal position at appellant level is very important both for suspects of crime and the press and will have an impact on how such incidents are reported by the media in future.

Sara Mansoori, Tim Owen QC and Antony White QC were involved in this case.