Private investigator fined for 'illegally blagging' personal data

A private investigator found guilty of "illegally blagging" personal data has been ordered to pay more than £89,000.

Barry Spencer, 42, from Hook Common, Hampshire, ran a company which made about 2,000 bogus phone calls to organisations about their customers.

He was fined £20,000 and given a confiscation order of more than £69,000 at Isleworth Crown Court, London.

Spencer will face prison if the order is not paid and has been disqualified from being a director for eight years.

Spencer had denied breaching the Data Protection Act but was found guilty on 20 November.

'Justified punishment'

His company, ICU Investigations Ltd, based in Feltham, Middlesex, duped call handlers into disclosing addresses and phone numbers, an earlier trial heard.

The firm had a number of clients, including housing associations and financial firms, which hired them to trace individuals they wanted to contact, usually for debt recovery.

GP surgeries, hospitals, utility companies and the TV Licensing helpline were also duped by the company's tactics.

An Information Commissioners Office (ICO) investigation estimated there were about 2,000 separate offences between 1 April 2009 to 12 May 2010.

ICO head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley said: "This fine and confiscation order is not only a justified punishment for Mr Spencer, but also a powerful deterrent to anyone thinking they can profit from illegally blagging personal data."

Spencer's business partner Adrian Stanton, 40, of Vicarage Road, Sunbury-on-Thames, was also convicted in November of breaching the Data Protection Act.

On 24 January, Stanton and five other employees of ICU Investigations Limited were fined a total of £18,500 and ordered to pay more than £15,600 in prosecution costs.

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