Private investigation firm directors charged with data protection breaches

Thursday 04 September 2014 20.38
The two directors appeared at Bray district court
The two directors appeared at Bray district court

Two directors of a private investigation company have appeared before Bray District Court charged with multiple breaches of data protection laws.

Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin, both directors of MCK Rentals Ltd of Trafalgar Road in Greystones, were each charged with 23 counts of consenting or conniving to or neglecting to stop alleged breaches of the data protection laws by the company between May and November last year.

MCK Rentals Ltd also faces 23 charges of obtaining access to personal data held by the Department of Social Protection and the HSE during the same period, without the authority of the organisation's data controllers, and giving the data to someone else.

Assistant Commissioner at the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, Tony Delaney told the court his office had been conducting an investigation into credit unions that were suspected of obtaining personal data of individuals.

He claimed the credit unions concerned had hired private investigators to trace people, and it was alleged that the investigators had used unlawful means to carry out their work.

He told the court it was alleged that MCK Rentals Ltd had contacted both the Department of Social Protection and the HSE's Primary Care Reimbursement Service by phone, and by blagging and misrepresenting themselves as being someone else had unlawfully obtained new addresses for people.

This information was then passed to the credit unions.

Mr Delaney said he had statements from the credit unions confirming they had hired MCK Rentals, obtained information and paid them for the service.

He said the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner was satisfied this amounted to a breach of the Data Protection Acts by both MCK Rentals and Ms Stuart and Ms Martin as directors.

The credit unions concerned, he said, are Tullamore, Portlaoise, Portarlington, Athy, Caherdavin in Limerick and St Mary's Park in Limerick.

Solicitor for the defendants, Patrick McCormack, sought an adjournment to allow time for disclosure of documents.

This was not opposed by the prosecution's solicitor Sophie More-O'Ferrall.

Having heard a summary of the evidence, Judge William Early said he was somewhat hesitatingly satisfied that they were matters to be tried summarily.

He adjourned the case to allow time for disclosure until 6 October, when it will come back before Bray District Court.

Keywords: data