IEHC 117
THE HIGH COURT
(CIRCUIT COURT APPEALS)
[2014 /89 CA]
[CIRCUIT COURT 2013 No. 10413]
IN THE MATTER OF THE DATA PROTECTION ACTS, 1988 AND 2003
IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 26 OF THE DATA PROTECTIONS ACTS 1988 AND 2003
DATA PROTECTION COMMISSIONER
PRICE WATERHOUSE COOPERS
JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Coffey delivered on the 26th day of February, 2018
1. This is an appeal on a point of law against an order of the Circuit Court made on 2nd May, 2014 wherein the President of t he
Circuit Court dismissed the appellant’s appeal pursuant to s. 26 of the Data Protect ion Act s 1988 and 2003 against a decision of t he
respondent made on 6th December, 2013. In that decision, it w as determined, inter alia, that material contained in memoranda from
the notic e party (“Pw C”) which it produc ed under cover of its lett er dated t he 13th September, 2012 in response to a c omplaint made
by the appellant t o PwC’s regulatory body, c ould not be deemed to be personal data relating to t he appellant within the meaning and
for the purposes of the definition of “personal dat a” cont ained in s. 1 of t he Data Protec tion Act 1988.
2. In September, 2011 the appellant made a complaint t o the Chartered Ac countants’ Regulatory Board (“CARB”) against PwC, his
former employer and training firm, in respect of allegations of non- compliance with ac counting and auditing standards in respec t of
3. By letter dat ed 13th Septe mber, 2012, PwC wrote t o CARB and attac hed to t he letter memoranda “addressing the c omplaints”
made by the appellant in respect of t he two a udits.
4. By letter dat ed 15th July, 2013 the appellant wrot e to Pw C in order to request a copy of the memoranda which had been at tached
to t he letter dat ed 13th July, 2012. By letter dat ed 17th July, 2013, PwC refused t he request on t he basis that the documents sought
did not cont ain the personal data o f the appellant.
5. The appellant disagreed and by letter dat ed 22nd July, 2013 made a complaint to t he respondent, in which he contended t hat the
memoranda related to “(his) complaint and allegations expressed therein as well as t he audit work that (he) carried out as an
employee of PwC”.
6. On 22nd July, 2013, and in the exercise of his st atutory pow ers so to do, Tony Delaney, an As sistant Commissioner, attended a t
the off ices of PwC and inspect ed the material conta ined in the memoranda. Having read the relevant material attached to t he letter
of the 13th September, 2012, he was satisfied t hat the documents in question did not c ontain any personal data in relation to the
appellant and further that the doc uments did not refer to t he appellant in any way. An averment to that effect was made by Mr.
Delaney in an affidavit sworn on the 27th February, 2014 which was subsequent ly produced to the Circuit Court.
7. By letter dat ed 13th August, 2013 t he respondent wrote to the appellant to st ate that an inspec tion had been carried out and to
inform him of the view of t he respondent that there was no personal data c oncerning the appellant in the relevant memoranda.
8. By email dated 22nd August, 2013 the appellant asked the respondent to provide reasons t o explain why she had formed the view
expressed in her letter dated 13t h August, 2013. By email dated the 5th November, 2015 the respondent indicated t hat the relevant
material did not c ontain any personal data relat ing to the appellant and t hat he was not refe rred to “in any way” in t he relevant
The Decision of the Circuit Court:
9. The President of the Circuit Court stat ed that in advancing an appeal against a stat utory dec ision-maker, the t est t hat must be
satisfied is that laid down by Finnegan P. in Ulster Bank v. McCarren  IEHC 323 (Unreported, High Court, Finnegan P., 1st
November, 2006), where it was state d:-
“…To suc ceed on this appeal the Plaintiff must establish as a matte r of probability that, t aking the adjudicative proce ss a
whole, the dec ision reached was vitiated by a serious and significant error or a series of suc h errors. In applying the test
the Court will have regard to t he degree of expertise and specialist knowledge of t he Defendant. T he deferential standard
is that a pplied by Keane C. J. in Orange v. The Director of Telecommunications Regulation & Anor and not that in
The State (Keegan) v. Stardust Compensation Tribunal.”
10. As the a ppellant had asserted t hat no inspect ion had been ca rried out, the learned Circuit Court Judge c onsidered the issue and
determined as a fact that , as part o f the invest igation of the appellant’s complaint, Tony Delaney, an Assistant Commissioner, had
attended the offic es of PwC to inspec t t he documents. He found t hat the Assistant Commissioner had taken caref ul notes of t he