Private eyes nicked for stealing data

Clink Prison MuseumTwo private detectives that routinely extracted personal information from organisations and individuals have been found guilty of breaching the Data Protection Art.

Barry Spencer (41) and Adrian Stanton (40) ran a company called ICU Investigations Ltd, based in Feltham. The company as an individual entity was also found guilty of breaking the law.

Five other people had already pleaded guilty – Robert Sparling (38), Joel Jones (43), Michael Sparling (41), Neil Sturton (43) and Lee Humphreys (41). Sentencing will take place on the 24th of January next year.

The court heard that the company worked on behalf of a number of clients including Allianz, Leeds Building Society and Dee Valley Water to trick GPs, TV Licensing, and utility companies for the purpose of debt collection.

There were nearly separate offences committed between the 1st of April 2009 and the 12th of May 2010. There was no evidence that the company’s clients were aware information was being illegally obtained.

The offence carries a fine – up to £5,000 in a magistrates court or an unlimited amount in a Crown Court.  The Information Commissioners Office, which instigated the investigation, is pressing for more stringent sentences including prison.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “The public expects to see firmer action taken against people who break the rules in this area, and Parliament needs to recognise that. I spoke with the Home Secretary, Teresa May, on this matter earlier this week to urge her to introduce more effective sentences for these kinds of offences, and she has agreed to meet me to discuss the matter. That conversation needs to result in action.”

There is provision for prison for the offences as part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, but those measures haven’t yet been implemented.