Court rules on inspection of SARs

The High Court has delivered a judgment in David Lonsdale v National Westminster Bank PLC.  The bank had made several SARs in relation to Mr Lonsdale and companies he was involved with and, as a result, had frozen all relevant accounts. After Mr Lonsdale applied to the court, the bank lifted the freeze. The next day, the bank gave Mr Lonsdale notice it was closing his accounts.

Mr Lonsdale submitted a subject access request under the then DPA for disclosure of all documents relating to the decision to freeze the accounts. The information the bank provided in response to the request did not include the SARs or any information extracted from them.  Mr Lonsdale applied to court for an order to, among other things, provide inspection of the SARs.

The Court considered a number of issues, including:

  • that whether or not the bank held a genuine suspicion is a question of fact, that would need to be tested at trial
  • whether the suspicion had to be that money in an account is the proceeds of crime before the account should be frozen and
  • whether requiring the bank to make the SARs available would cause it to commit tipping off