A private detective from Kent was given a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £1200 by Croydon Magistrates yesterday. He had been charged with disclosing information relating to an individual’s bank account details.

Such acts are in breach of the 1998 Data Protection Act, which makes it an offence “knowingly or recklessly, without the consent of the data controller, to obtain or disclose personal data.”

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which prosecuted the case, private eye David Sibley, of West Wickham, had been asked by a solicitors’ firm to investigate an individual who was making an insurance claim.

Sibley disclosed the personal account information after calls were made by third parties to the victim’s elderly mother and to two of the victim’s banks.

“I am delighted with the outcome of this investigation and prosecution,” said Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas. “Obtaining other people’s personal information by unlawful means is a serious offence and my Office will not hesitate to pursue those who knowingly breach the Data Protection Act in this way.”

“Many different people and organisations hold this sort of information about us and we have a right to feel safe and secure that the data is controlled properly and is not used for purposes other than those for which we intended. Today’s prosecution shows that the Data Protection Act is there to ensure that individuals’ personal information is secure, accurate, up-to-date and is processed fairly,” he added.