A convicted fraudster has lost a legal bid to have news stories about him by two regional newspapers removed from Google searches under the so-called “right to be forgotten.”
Malcolm Edwards, who was involved in a £51m VAT scam, originally applied for an injunction designed to force five media organisations including the Nottingham Post and Derby Telegraph to remove their stories about him.
He then discontinued the claim and applied for permission to serve proceedings on Google instead – but this was dismissed by a judge at Nottingham Crown Court last week.
Judge Nigel Godsmark QC said the applications were “totally without merit” and awarded costs to the media organisations, including £6,627 each to the two regional dailies.
The “right to be forgotten” has given people the right to request that certain articles be removed from search engine results, following a European Court ruling last year.
Edwards, who was previously known as Malcolm Edwards-Sayer, was originally convicted of the offences in 2007.,
He claimed the continued publication of stories about his convictions interfered with his right to privacy and ability to lead a normal life.
He sought to invoke the right to be forgotten under the Data Protection Act 1998, the EU Data Protection Directive and/or Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to respect for private and family life, along with relying on last year’s EU court ruling.
Following last week’s court decision, Nottingham Post editor Mike Sassi said: “Malcolm Edwards is a convicted fraudster who was jailed for six and a half years because he was part of a plot to steal millions of pounds from the public purse.
“It is important that justice is seen to be done – and people are told about his crimes.
“What’s more, Edwards is still serving his sentence so any suggestion that he deserves to have his offences removed from The Post’s public archives is clearly ridiculous.
“There is obviously still great public interest in both him and his crimes.”
Derby Telegraph editor Neil White added: “It is important that criminals don’t see the ‘right to be forgotten’ as an opportunity to have unspent convictions removed from the public domain.
“I am pleased that a judge has agreed that this case was entirely without merit.”
Edwards, a former law lecturer and lay preacher from Bramcote in Nottingham, was jailed for six-and-a-half years in November 2007 after admitting eight counts of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.
He was sentenced to a further three-and-a-half years, to run consecutively, for other offences, meaning he is still serving his sentence – although he is thought to have been released from prison on licence.
The media organisations argued that his offences could therefore not be treated as historical and it was in the public interest for the articles to remain published.
The judge awarded three defendants – the Derby Telegraph, Nottingham Post and Associated Newspapers costs of £6,627. Edwards was also ordered to pay the Guardian’s costs of £6,859 and £5,127 to the BBC.