Anu Mohindru, lead the defence team for the first defendant in an ICO prosecution for the unlawful obtaining and disclosure of data, contrary to the Data Protection Act.
Anu Mohindru was instructed to represent an employee of a claims management company, who was alleged to have passed on unlawfully obtained data contained in a ‘lifestyle report’. The report had been commissioned by a pharmaceutical company, in order to investigate whether one of its employees had committed fraud on the company. The ICO’s case was that the data that had been unlawfully obtained by a private investigator ‘blagging’ banks to disclose financial information about its customers. Importantly, the employee for whom the report was commissioned, did in fact commit large-scale fraud on the company.
The case was unusual in that a corporate defendant, a multi-national pharmaceutical company, was co-charged, as was a director alleged to be a ‘directing mind’ of the company.
The case proceeded to trial at Warwick Crown Court. There was disagreement between the prosecution and the defence as to the true construction of section 55 (a) and (d) in the Act: namely, whether the obtaining of said data was necessary for the detection or prevention of crime, or in the public interest. The defence mounted a legal argument that the construction of a statutory ‘defence’ in section 55 of the Act must be an objective, not subjective, test, with retrospective knowledge being allowed.
The judge held that the test was indeed objective. This led to the ICO offering no evidence against all defendants on the second day of trial.