Court hands out record fines in blue-chip data theft case

DataIQ News

The Information Commissioner's Office has hailed the success of its ongoing "blue-chip" data theft investigation after a firm of loss adjusters has been fined £50,000 for unlawfully disclosing personal data which had been obtained illegally by senior employees and rogue private investigators.

A jury at Maidstone Crown Court returned 15 guilty verdicts in December in relation to the charges, which also include a director and a senior member of staff at Kent-based Woodgate & Clark as well as the private investigators involved.

The case was part of an ongoing ICO investigation into allegations of a criminal trade in confidential personal information involving corporate clients suspected of using the services of rogue private investigators.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "The illegal trade in personal information is not only a criminal offence but a serious erosion of the privacy rights of UK citizens.

“As well as these record fines, the organisations and individuals involved also face serious reputational damage as a result of being prosecuted by the ICO.”

The case centred on a businessman who had made a claim on an insurance policy in relation to a fire at business premises he owned in Lancashire. The private investigators unlawfully obtained confidential financial information, including details of his banking transactions, and disclosed it to Woodgate & Clark, which then disclosed it to an insurer client.

The company was fined £50,000 and was ordered to pay £20,000 costs. Woodgate & Clark director Michael Woodgate was fined £75,000 and was ordered to pay £20,000 costs.

Woodgate & Clark senior loss adjuster Colum Tudball was fined £30,000 and was ordered to pay £20,000 costs.

Meanwhile private investigators Daniel Summers and Adam John Spears were also fined, £20,000 (and £20,000 costs) and £10,000 (and £2,500 costs) respectively.

Denham added; "The sentencing hearing was part of a long, complex and detailed investigation by ICO staff and our work in this area continues.”