Rb. Den Haag - 20/2732
|Rb. Den Haag - 20/2732|
|Court:||Rb. Den Haag (Netherlands)|
|Relevant Law:||Article 15 GDPR|
|Parties:||College van Burgemeester en Wethouders Den Haag|
|National Case Number/Name:||20/2732|
|European Case Law Identifier:||ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:3599|
|Original Source:||Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch)|
|Initial Contributor:||Giel Ritzen|
The District Court Den Haag rejected a data subject’s claim that the city government had not provided all information within the scope of her access request, because the data subject did not make it plausible why this was the case.
This case is between a data subject and the city government of The Hague (the controller). In 2019, the data subject requested access to her personal data pursuant to Article 15 GDPR. The controller partially complied with the request on 6 November 2019, after which the data subject claimed that not all information within the scope of her access request, had been provided to her. Eventually, on 15 December 2020, the controller provided her with more documents. According to the data subject, however, this was not enough because the scope of her access request included all e-mails that were sent by the (so-called) “youth director”. This is a government employee who functions as a main contact person between a family and the different governmental agencies. The city government, however, stated that these emails could no longer be found in the system, since the respective youth director is no longer employed, and his personal email inbox is no longer available. Moreover, other youth directors could not find any other emails that relate to the data subject, in their common email inbox. According to the data subject, this was negligence on the side of the controller.
Hence, she brought the issue before Court.
The Court rejected the claim.
The Court stated that the data subject did not make plausible that the city government did not fully comply with the access request. In this regard, the Court considered that the city government had already conducted a new search in 2020, which led them to provide more documents on 15 December 2020. According to the Court, it was not implausible that there are no more emails to provide to the data subject. Moreover, the Court stipulated that it is not relevant that the personal inbox of the former youth director may have contained personal data relating to the data subject’s children. After all, the Court stipulated, the controller provided all information that is required under Article 15 GDPR.
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English Machine Translation of the Decision
The decision below is a machine translation of the Dutch original. Please refer to the Dutch original for more details.
COURT OF THE HAGUE Administrative law case number: SGR 20/2732 ruling of the single chamber of 20 April 2022 in the case between [plaintiff] , at [place of residence] , plaintiff (Agent: Mr. N. Baouch), and the Municipal Executive of The Hague, defendant (Agent: P.B.L. Willemsen). Process sequence By decision of November 6, 2019 (hereinafter: primary decision), the respondent partially granted a request for inspection by the claimant. By decision of March 4, 2020, the respondent declared the objection of the claimant against the primary decision inadmissible. Plaintiff has appealed against the decision of March 4, 2020. On June 18, 2020, the defendant withdrew the decision of March 4, 2020. On December 15, 2020, the Defendant submitted further documents to the Plaintiff. By decision of 15 March 2021 (hereinafter: the contested decision1), the respondent upheld the claimant's objection. Plaintiff has filed further grounds of appeal. The court heard the appeal on 6 April 2022 using an image link. Plaintiff appeared, assisted by her attorney. Defendant was represented by his authorized representative. Considerations What is this case about? 1. This case concerns the question of whether the defendant has made it plausible that he has provided the plaintiff with all personal data that are the subject of the request for access, as referred to in Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and that he has at his disposal. What do the plaintiff and the defendant argue? 2. Plaintiff believes that Defendant has not made it plausible that he owes her all e-mails from the youth director, which fall within the scope of the request for access. Insofar as e-mails are no longer available in the defendant's system, this constitutes a careless act, which should not be at the risk of the plaintiff. 3. During the hearing, the defendant explained in more detail why he cannot submit any e-mails from the youth directors involved other than the e-mails he had already provided to the plaintiff. The youth directors act as a link between various aid agencies and do not have their own customer base. They answer questions via email. The e-mails arrive in his inbox in the personal name of a youth director. He places the e-mails that the youth director saves in a common inbox in Outlook that is only accessible to youth directors. If a youth director leaves the service, his personal inbox is no longer accessible. The youth directors concerned are no longer employed by the defendant. The defendant made inquiries with colleagues from youth directors, but they did not find any e-mails in the common inbox that fall under the request for access, other than the e-mails that had already been provided to the plaintiff. What is the court's verdict? 4. According to the case law2 of the Supreme Administrative Court, anyone who argues that there must be more personal data, after the administrative authority has investigated those personal data and has not stated implausibly that there are no more personal data, must demonstrate that there must be more personal data. . 5. The court is of the opinion that the claimant has not demonstrated that the respondent has more personal data, which are the subject of the request for inspection. 5.1. Defendant has stated that he only has information about the matter in question e-mails (in outlook), and the court sees no reason to doubt this in the documents and in the explanation given by the defendant at the hearing. The defendant has made sufficiently plausible that a new search for the personal data requested by the plaintiff was made during the objection phase. In view of the explanation given by the defendant at the hearing, the court's statement that the investigation has shown that there are no more e-mails from the youth directors is not implausible. 5.2. Furthermore, the court does not follow the claimant's position that the contested decision was reached without due care because the respondent did not answer the questions asked by the claimant in an e-mail of 8 February 2021. Plaintiff has on this e-mail receive a reply from a youth director. The fact that this answer is not satisfactory for the claimant does not alter the fact that the respondent has made it plausible that it has done everything it can to comply with the request for access. 5.3. The fact that personal data of the plaintiff's children may have been contained in the personal inboxes of youth directors, who are no longer employed by the defendant, does not change the above. The defendant has fulfilled the purpose of Article 15 of the GDPR by notifying the plaintiff of the personal data held by him about her children and the processing of the personal data. This enables Plaintiff to check the correctness of these personal data as well as the lawfulness of those processing operations and, if necessary, to take further steps on the basis of the GDPR or other regulations. 6. In view of the foregoing, the court concludes that the grounds of appeal against the contested decision do not succeed. The appeal is unfounded in that regard. The repealed decision of March 4, 2020 7. It has not become apparent that Plaintiff has an interest in a judgment on the lawfulness of the withdrawn decision of March 4, 2020. There are no legal costs in the objection. Insofar as the appeal is directed against the decision of 4 March 2020, it is declared inadmissible. Litigation costs and court fees 8. In the circumstance that the defendant withdrew the decision of 4 March 2020 pending appeal and subsequently partially met the objection by providing the plaintiff with more documents that fall within the scope of the request for inspection, the court sees reason to convict the defendant in the costs of the plaintiff for the appeal. The court sets these costs on the basis of the Administrative Costs Procedural Costs Decree for legal assistance provided by a third party professionally at: € 1,518 (1 point for submitting the notice of appeal, 1 point for appearing at the hearing, with a value per point of € 759,- and a weighting factor 1). Because an addition has been granted to the plaintiff, the defendant must pay the costs of the proceedings to the representative. 9. The District Court considers the reason under 8 to be grounds on the basis of Article 8:74, second paragraph, of the General Administrative Law Act to determine that the court fee of € 178 paid by the claimant will be reimbursed by the defendant. Decision The court - declares the appeal, insofar as it is directed against the decision of 4 March 2020, non- admissible; - declares the appeal to be unfounded insofar as it is directed against the decision of 15 March 2021; - orders the defendant to reimburse the plaintiff for the court fee paid of € 178; - orders the defendant to pay the plaintiff's legal costs to an amount of € 1,518. This statement was made by mr. G.P. Klein, judge, in the presence of mr. I.N. Powell, clerk. The verdict was handed down in public on April 20, 2022. clerk judge A copy of this ruling has been sent to the parties at: Do you disagree with this statement? If you do not agree with this ruling, you can send a letter to the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State explaining why you do not agree with it. This is called an appeal. You must submit this notice of appeal within 6 weeks of the day on which this decision was sent. You can see this date above. 1 Pursuant to Section 6:19 of the General Administrative Law Act (Awb), the appeal also applies to this decision by operation of law. 2 See, for example, the judgment of 19 January 2022, ECLI:NL:RVS:2022:148, r.o. 8.2.