Walthamstow community activist Charlie Edwards’ court case shows that, though LBWF has a legal duty to release to each resident the personal information it holds about them, it is still obstructive

Some months ago, Walthamstow community activist Charlie Edwards lodged a claim for damages against LBWF because of the way it had handled a request for the personal information which it held about him, what’s known as a Subject Access Request (SAR), and earlier this week his case was heard at the Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court.

The hearing started on a comical note. 

LBWF was represented by barrister Douglas Scott of Six Pump Court (which describes itself as ‘Recognised nationally and internationally as one of the UK’s leading sets of Chambers’) and, while waiting to start, Mr. Scott warned Mr. Edwards that his primary aim was to have the case straightaway thrown out.

Yet, despite this bullishness, when the judge took her seat, Mr. Scott was nowhere to be seen. 

A search party was dispatched, and after some delay Mr. Scott and his team shuffled into court, looking, according to one observer, a little sheepish.

The judge then swiftly dismissed Mr. Scott’s request that the case should be thrown out, and invited the two sides to present their substantive arguments.

Mr. Edwards stated that he had submitted a SAR, but LBWF had not responded within the required timeframe of (at a maximum) 90 days, and since this had caused him significant distress, particularly because of his disabilities, he was claiming £5,000 in damages.

For his part, Mr. Scott frankly admitted that, by responding 40 days later than it should have done, LBWF indeed had breached Article 12(3) General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679), the UK GDPR.

But, he continued, this was just a technicality, and Mr. Edwards anyway had suffered no serious harm. In fact, he added, Mr. Edwards’ claim was essentially vexatious, amongst other things because, on the basis of his submission, he had no chance of success.

After a brief pause, the judge ruled in Mr. Scott’s favour, because, as the law defined it, Mr. Edwards’ degree of distress was insufficient to trigger damages, and therefore his claim failed.

However, when the judge turned to costs there was a surprise.

Mr. Scott had applied for Mr. Edwards to be charged £2,156 in costs, and made great play of the fact that, because LBWF wished to be reasonable, this was only a fraction of its total outlay. 

Yet the judge was not persuaded, and declined to make a ruling, leaving each side to pay for itself. 

Reflecting on these events, it is clear that Mr. Edwards has reason to feal vindicated. As a strong believer in the importance of the law, as well as a Waltham Forest council tax payer, he felt LBWF’s breach was unacceptable, and wanted it recorded definitively and for posterity, and this he has now accomplished.

Moreover, he also can point to the fact that the judge’s ruling on costs implicitly refutes the idea that his motive in bringing the case was anything other than to prove a point of principle, in other words that allegations about his supposed vexatiousness were well wide of the mark.

Conversely, LBWF emerges with little credit. 

The blunt truth, obviously, is that its disrespect for the law has ended up wasting a substantial amount of public money.

Furthermore, some of the evidence that LBWF submitted to the court suggests that during 2023, its data protection and information services were little short of shambolic.

For example, it emerges that in the first part of the year, ‘The Information officer…had several members of the team away on long term sick leave, so was required to cover multiple roles’, which caused ‘a large backlog of emails’ in the ‘the Information inbox’; while over the summer similar problems continued, such that ‘The SARs admin was left without cover whilst new temps were being trained’.

Since staff absences, because of leave or illness, are not exactly unknown, none of this inspires much confidence in how the services were being run, and in particular in the senior manager involved, Director of Governance and Law, Monitoring Officer, and Data Protection Officer, Mark Hynes. 

To conclude, this case mirrors others in recent years where LBWF has been found wanting over the Freedom of Information Act and the UK GDPR (see links).

In the light of these repeated failures, the incoming LBWF CEO, Linzi Roberts-Egan, has promised a new approach, and it is to be hoped that she succeeds.


In its coverage of the case, the Waltham Forest Echo reports that when LBWF was asked for a comment, its PR department replied:

‘“We are pleased that the judge dismissed a claim for damages and that we can now focus on supporting Waltham Forest residents who rely on the essential services that we provide.”’


Given that LBWF failure unarguably precipitated the altercation that followed, such an arrogant refusal to admit culpability indicates that Ms. Roberts-Egan may well have her work cut out.

Related Posts

LBWF Chief Executive Linzi Roberts-Egan orders a review of how the council handles residents’ requests for information, but the omens are not encouraging

LBWF, the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act: the obstruction and harassment of residents asking lawful questions continues

LBWF and information requests: a new case shows that despite past official reprimands, Information Officer Mark Hynes’ service is still casually impeding transparency

Walthamstow resident and community activist Charlie Edwards dismantles LBWF’s claim that it ‘consulted’ before installing 500 new bike hangers

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request about the Walthamstow Mall, LBWF is caught out misusing one of the legislation’s exemption clauses, and has to eat crow

Despite being berated by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2020, LBWF failings over the Freedom of Information Act continue

Leave a Reply