Civil-liberties campaigner asking for surveillance records on him to be deleted

News by Roi Perez

John Catt is a 91 year-old civil liberties campaigner who is taking his lawsuit to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in an attempt to have surveillance records of his participation in peaceful protests deleted.

Attending more than 80 lawful demonstrations with his daughter, his name is currently listed on a secret national database run by the UK's National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The listings are alleged to contain details of his appearance and even minor detail such as slogans on their t-shirts.

The police were particularly perturbed by his habit of sketching at protests. The Guardian newspaper reported on this back in 2010: “Catt's artistic endeavours received particular scrutiny. 'John Catt sat on a folding chair by the southern most gate of [the arms factory] EDO MBM and appeared to be sketching,' states one of several logs. 'He was using his drawing pad to sketch a picture of the protest and police presence,' said another from 10 March 2006.”

The fight is now in its sixth year - 2013 saw a major breakthrough for the case where three senior judges ruled in Catt's favour - asking for the records to be deleted.

The police later appealed, and in 2015 the UK's supreme court agreed that the police were acting within the law by keeping a record of Catt's activities, and said they did not need to be removed.

Explaining his latest legal move, Catt told The Guardian: "Denied justice in Britain, I am now taking my fight to Europe in the hope that if successful, the case will set a benchmark in regulating what information the state is legally entitled to collect and retain about lawful protesters, and where unlawfully retained, it should be destroyed."

If Catt wins the case at the ECHR, the judgement could set a standard for what information member states can retain on its citizens lawful activities.

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