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Data Protection Commission

Office of the Data Protection Commissioner Welcomes Another Successful Prosecution of a Private Investigator

The Data Protection Commissioner today welcomed the successful outcome of prosecution proceedings taken by her Office against a private investigator (PI), James Cowley, which concluded at Dublin Metropolitan District Court.

Following an investigation by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, Mr. Cowley of Rivervalley, Swords, Co. Dublin was charged with sixty one counts of breaches of Section 22 of the Data Protection Acts, 1988 & 2003 on dates in 2015. The charges relate to obtaining access to personal data without the prior authority of the data controller by whom the data was kept and disclosing that data to another person. In the cases before the Court, the personal data was kept by the Department of Social Protection. The personal data was disclosed to Zurich PLC, Allianz PLC and the State Claims Agency.

Before the court this morning, the defendant pleaded guilty to thirteen charges. He was convicted on the first four charges and he was fined €1,000 per charge, i.e. a total of €4,000. The court was informed that the defendant had contributed €1,000 toward the prosecution costs incurred by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. Counsel for the defendant apologised for her client's offending behaviour. Assistant Commissioner Tony Delaney gave evidence in today's court proceedings.

This was the third successful prosecution by the Data Protection Commissioner in the past two years in relation to offences committed by private investigators. The Commissioner is determined to continue her investigations of Section 22 offences in this sector and to bring offenders to justice. A number of other investigations in this sector are ongoing and these may result in future prosecutions.

Speaking following today’s proceedings, Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon welcomed the outcome, saying “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."


13 June 2016