A firm of loss adjusters has been found guilty of unlawfully disclosing personal data illegally obtained by senior members of their staff and private investigators.

A director and senior employee of the Kent-based firm, Woodgate and Clark Ltd, and the private investigators themselves have also been found guilty.

A jury at Maidstone Crown Court returned 15 guilty verdicts yesterday in relation to the charges, brought by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The case is part of a wider ongoing investigation by the ICO into alleged data protection offences involving corporate clients suspected of using the services of rogue private investigators.

Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO, said:

“This case is a strand of an important ICO investigation that our team has put a great deal of work into and we welcome the verdict.

“The illegal trade in confidential personal information threatens people’s privacy and security and it’s right that the actions of those involved should be punished.”

The jury convicted the two private investigators of unlawfully obtaining a person’s financial information, including details of their banking transactions, and disclosing it to Woodgate and Clark Ltd, which then disclosed it to an insurer client.

The ICO brought charges relating to breaches of section 55 of the Data Protection Act, for which the following verdicts were returned:

  • Private investigator Daniel Summers, aged 38, Pilgrim Close, Radyr, Cardiff (convicted in his absence):
    • Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: Guilty
    • Unlawful disclosing of personal data x2: Guilty
  • Private investigator Adam John Spears, aged 78, Pleasance Road North, Lydd on Sea, Kent:
    • Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: Guilty
    • Unlawful disclosing of personal data x2: Guilty
  • Colum Tudball, senior loss adjuster at Woodgate and Clark, aged 54, Farriers Walk, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent:
    • Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: Guilty
  • Michael Woodgate, director at Woodgate and Clark, aged 67, King Street, West Malling, Kent:
    • Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: One not guilty and one guilty verdict
    • Unlawful disclosing of personal data x2: Guilty
  • The company, Woodgate and Clark Ltd:
    • Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: Not guilty
    • Unlawful disclosing of personal data x2: Guilty

The defendants have been ordered to serve financial means by 22 December, with sentencing due on 5 January 2018.

The ICO’s investigation started in 2013 after the Serious Organised Crime Agency handed it a list of ‘blue chip’ clients of criminal private investigators.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  4. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  5. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
    • fairly and lawfully processed;
    • processed for limited purposes;
    • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
    • accurate and up to date;
    • not kept for longer than is necessary;
    • processed in line with your rights;
    • secure; and
    • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  6. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.