uPSD begins this summary with the remarks that concluded Judge Arnold’s summing up: “I cannot part from this case without expressing my concern that it should have come this far. I fear that the costs will have been out of all proportion to what is at stake. That is regrettable in any litigation, but particularly so where public money is involved.”
That damning conclusion from a High Court Judge sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice informs plenty about the attitude and actions of West Yorkshire Police and the senior management in charge.
Mr Justice Arnold said specialist Kent-based software firm Forensic Telecommunications Services Ltd (FTS) had succeeded in a “breach of confidence” claim against West Yorkshire Police. FTS had reluctantly taken legal action against the police force – and ex-Detective Constable Stephen Hirst – claiming that data had been “appropriated” and its copyright or “database right” had been infringed.
Mr Trevor Fordy, a retired Northumbria detective superintendent and FTS consultant, had quite correctly become “suspicious” about West Yorkshire Police after a high-tech unit manager discussed a terrorist investigation. Counsel for FTS told the judge that in 2006 Mr Fordy became aware that West Yorkshire Police had tried and failed to develop software with the “same functionality” as FTS software. However, later in 2006 the force had developed an application “for the extraction, analysis and presentation of data from mobile telephones”. There were “striking similarities” between the police programme and the FTS software which could not “be explained by mere coincidence”.
The force denied infringing copyright. A lawyer representing police told Mr Justice Arnold that senior officers disputed that there had been “extraction or utilisation”. Mr Justice Arnold said FTS had been “successful overall” in its claim.
FTS said afterwards that it welcomed the judgment that found West Yorkshire Police liable. The firm said that legal action to protect its confidential information and intellectual property was a last resort and believed that problems had been caused by the force’s high-tech unit in 2006 and 2007.
“It was with great reluctance that FTS resorted to legal action,” said the spokesman. “We sought repeatedly to bring this matter to an amicable resolution.”
Although not involved in the case herself Huddersfield barrister Jane Lambert, an intellectual property specialist, cuts through a lot of the technical and legal jargon and gets to the heart of the matter more succinctly than we ever could in her blog on the subject.