Guilty verdicts handed down in trial against Woodgate and Clark Ltd and rogue private investigators

A firm of loss adjusters has been found guilty of unlawfully disclosing personal data illegally obtained by senior members of its staff and private investigators. A director and senior employee of 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 in relation to charges brought by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The case itself 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 one strand of an important ICO investigation that our team has put a great deal of work into, and we very much welcome the verdict. The illegal trade in confidential personal information threatens people’s privacy and security, so it’s only right that the actions of those involved in such activity 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:

*Daniel Summers (private investigator), aged 38, of Pilgrim Close, Radyr, Cardiff (convicted in his absence) Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: Guilty, Unlawful disclosing of personal data x2: Guilty

*Adam John Spears (private investigator), aged 78, of 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 Ltd), aged 54, of Farriers Walk, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent Unlawful obtaining of personal data x2: Guilty

*Michael Woodgate (director at Woodgate and Clark Ltd), aged 67, of 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

*Woodgate and Clark Ltd (the company) 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 Friday 22 December, with sentencing due to take place on Friday 5 January 2018.

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

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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