Monday, 4 July 2016

Private Investigator prosecuted by Data Protection Commissioner

Private Investigator James Cowley pleaded guilty to 13 charges under Section 22 of the Data Protection Act for unlawfully obtaining access to personal data and disclosing it to third parties without authorisation of the Department of Social Protection. He had been hired by Permanent TSB, Zurich, Alliance and the State Claims Agency to carry out surveillance on claimants. The prosecution has been welcomed by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. It was the third successful prosecution by the ODPC in the last two years in relation to offences committed by private investigators.
The Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon said the following in relation to the prosecution, “This outcome is a strong signal to private investigators that they must fully comply with data protection legislation. As this case highlights, where private investigators fail to comply with the law they will be rigorously pursued and prosecuted for offending behaviour. It is also a timely reminder to all companies and businesses which hire private investigators of their responsibilities under the Data Protection Acts to ensure that all work carried out on their behalf by private investigators is done lawfully. I would urge public bodies and private sector organisations who appoint private investigators to review their terms of engagement, in order to satisfy themselves that any means of collection of personal data used by the investigators they hire are in line with the law."

Fintan Lawlor, Lawlor Partners Solicitors, was the first solicitor in Ireland to secure compensation for a data subject whose rights had been breached under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003. The plaintiff in the case of Collins v FBD has been pursued by a private investigator. 

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