Private Investigators Convicted of Unlawfully Obtaining Personal Information

November 20, 2013

Barry Spencer, 41, and Adrian Stanton, 40, ran ICU Investigations Ltd in Feltham, Middlesex. The pair were convicted at Isleworth Crown Court of conspiring to unlawfully obtain personal data. Five employees of the company had previously pleaded guilty to the same offence: Robert Sparling (38), Joel Jones (43), Michael Sparling (41), Neil Sturton (43) and Lee Humphreys (41). The company ICU Investigations Ltd was also found guilty as a separate defendant. A sentencing hearing has now been listed for the 24 January 2014.

ICU Investigations Ltd worked on behalf of clients to trace individuals, primarily for the purpose of debt recovery. The court heard the company had routinely tricked organisations including utility companies, GP surgeries and TV Licensing into revealing personal data, often by claiming to be the individuals they were trying to trace. Clients included Allianz Insurance PLC, Brighton & Hove Council, Leeds Building Society and Dee Valley Water.

An ICO investigation estimated there were nearly 2,000 separate offences between 1 April 2009 to 12 May 2010.

ICO Criminal Investigations Team Manager Damian Moran said:

‘Private investigators must learn they are not above the law. While the majority of private investigators go about their business in an honest manner, unscrupulous operators such as ICU Investigations Ltd taint the industry and blight the reputations of their counterparts. These men knew they were breaking the law, but did so anyway, presumably confident they would not be caught. That faith was misplaced, and they and their employees will now face the consequences of their actions.’

The ICO found no evidence of criminality by any organisation that employed ICU Investigations Ltd. The information requested could typically have been obtained legitimately, and there was no evidence clients were aware the data had been obtained by illegal means.