Remove court records from Google
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How to remove news articles about your court case from the internet
Details of court cases find their way to the press through a reporter, a press release by the CPS or a leak by the police
Facing a court case is difficult enough and often a traumatic experience, particularly if you were found not guilty. If details of your case appear on the internet, this could seriously harm your opportunities in life. You might ask, how is it fair that information about you can be so readily available? Having put the court case behind you, you may now have lost that job offer you were so close to getting, or you may have just entered a new relationship that is now on the rocks, and this is solely because of information that has been published about you on the internet.
If you were accused of a criminal offence, but it was then held that you were not guilty of what you had been accused of, when someone carries out a search for your name, details of your court case might come up without the reader getting the full story. We often have clients who call us who feel the same way as you and who do not know who to turn to yet believe they are entitled to what is known as the Right to erasure, more commonly known as the right to be forgotten. You probably recall scrolling down the pages of each article about you, trying to find the details of the publisher in order to ask them to delete the content, but despite your pleadings, the article remains.
Our client, Judith, (not her real name) initially did not realise the magnitude of media publications and articles which had been written about her. Her case followed a matter in 2010 where she had been accused of assaulting her husband. The charges were later dropped (the case was formally discontinued) as the prosecution offered no evidence in court. She has since been living with her husband happily as both parties decided to put the matter behind them.
Although Judith was always aware that there may have been one minor article published about her court case on the internet, she was shocked when she did a google search of her name upon landing a new job, which led to a pandora’s box being opened as so many articles and reports on the matter were published. The issue that Judith had with the articles was that many of the comments were taken out of context, making her look completely unreasonable. Judith felt demeaned and angry. Her self-confidence rapidly dropped and she was angered that such misinformation was even allowed to be published. She had done nothing wrong and the case against her was concluded without a conviction.
Newspapers can publish anything they want from legal proceedings, as long as the reporting is fair and accurate. By nature of things, newspapers often look for sensationalised quotes for attention-grabbing headlines, so they tend to pick a single loaded sentence, otherwise insignificant, and turn it into a headline. Whilst you might feel that the newspaper's online reporting is unfair, this is something that you will only be able to establish in extreme cases.
Whilst accurate reporting from legal proceedings is essential, under English libel law, slight inaccuracies in newspaper reporting are allowed as long as the gist of the matter which is reported is true and accurate. The media’s main incentive is to make a good and interesting story. Those who publish online articles, newspapers, and court reports, are known to sometimes exaggerate the facts of a case in order to provide content that is ‘juicy’ for its audience.
Therefore, if you were to stumble across an online article concerning a matter involving you, where you were never found guilty of anything, you may be confused as to why it can be so difficult to get those articles removed from the news websites. In your view the story may have been taken to the extreme, it may portray you in a bad light, and you cannot help but wonder why this article exists or what benefit the public will have in reading it, other than perhaps to criticise your character or to gossip about you.
Yes. You can ask newspapers to remove articles about your court case. Whilst the news editor is not obliged to adhere to your requirements, some do under exceptional circumstances. Most news editors, however, cite Journalistic exemption as a lawful right to continue to publish the article.
Indeed, we often write on our client’s behalf to the news editor, with a request to have news articles removed, or at least changed. This is on the basis that the news article is demonstrably unfair and that the content is not in the public interest, it is outdated or it has an unusual impact on our client’s life.
Yet as solicitors we pride ourselves in offering advice from a realistic point of view, and journalists are protected by GDPR, which promotes the right to freedom of expression and information which also includes processing information for journalistic processes.
Yes. You can remove court records from Google with a right to be forgotten application. The more realistic approach would be to file an application to Google under the right to be forgotten, to request that links to the court records are removed from Google searches. In the case of Judith, our submission to Google included evidence that our client had not been convicted of the offence as implied by the snippet in Google search results.
We had expressed in our application the negative impact that the articles were having on Judith’s wellbeing, and her inability to secure employment since the reports and articles online associate her with being a violent abuser. There is no reason why you should need to suffer for the sake of a story drawn up to attract the public’s attention.
Most people deserve more. Although it might seem insignificant, and you can just tell people your version of events, or perhaps just ignore the content, you might not realise that by allowing links to articles about your historic court case, you are almost enabling people to judge you and perhaps you are also limiting your goals and future.
For the reasons mentioned, if you relate to any of the above, it may be worth considering the right to be forgotten - after all, as the opportunity to remove links to news articles exists, you might as well take advantage of it and do it as well as you possibly can.