In a landmark case, a businessman has won a claim against Google for search results about a criminal conviction and their removal.
The claim was initially brought by two businessmen, referred to as NT1 and NT2. While Mr Justice Mark Warby ruled in favour of NT2, he ruled against NT2.
However, the reasons for the distinction was the length of prison time served, contrasting NT1’s prison sentence of 4 years to NT2’s sentence of 6 months. Also, the Judge recognised that NT1 continued to mislead the public, whereas NT2 had shown remorse for his actions.
The claim emerged after Google refused a request to remove search results including links to media sites which mentioned the businessmen’s criminal convictions. After being refused by Google, the two businessmen took the internet giant to the High Court.
The request made by these two businessmen were two of 2.4 million requests made to remove links for the search engine after the European Court of Justice ruled that irrelevant and outdated information should be removed on request in 2014.
In respect of the case of NT1, the Judge did not receive his claim kindly, stating that after leaving prison, “He has not accepted his guilt, has misled the public and this court, and shows no remorse over any of these matters.” Therefore, his application was refused. However, he has been awarded the right to appeal.
In regards to NT2, the Judge stated that “the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability”.
While the Judge accepted that the ‘right to be forgotten’ request should be actioned, he ruled out any claim for damages.
In response to the ruling, a Google spokesperson said: “We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful information. We are pleased that the court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgments they have made in this case.”
This judgment could have a ripple effect in allowing other convicted criminals success in removing any mention of their embarrassing encounters from the web.
It will be interesting to see if this is a floodgate moment, watch this space!
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