A claims management company director has been fined after being convicted of data protection breaches. Bristol Magistrates Court heard that Miles Savory, a director of Bristol-based Accident Claims Handlers Ltd, invented a vehicle accident simply because he wished to trace the owner of a number plate that he wanted to buy.

Mr Savory wanted to buy a particular private registration plate – W1 DOW – but was unaware of who the owner was. He therefore decided to write to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), saying that as the vehicle with that registration had been involved in an accident in Bristol on January 15 2017, he needed to know the identity of the driver.

Once the DVLA had disclosed the information, Mr Savory wrote to the owner of the vehicle, Stephen Bastow, offering to buy his number plate. Mr Bastow then sensed something was amiss, and contacted the DVLA, who then reported the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after their own internal investigation.

Mr Bastow lives in Huddersfield and claimed never to have visited Bristol, and police Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras confirmed that his vehicle was not in the Bristol area at the time Mr Savory said that the crash had occurred.

Asaf Khan, the prosecutor, told the court:

“The DVLA received a letter from Stephen Bastow, dated March 30, stating he had received a letter from Mr Miles Savory to see if he would sell his private registration plate, W1 DOW.

“Mr Bastow asked how Mr Savory had obtained his home address as his vehicle had not been involved in an accident. On receipt of his letter, [the DVLA found] an application for the details of the vehicle had been made by Mr Savory on behalf of Accident Claims.

“The DVLA made enquiries and discovered the information provided was not correct. The information was passed to the ICO to be investigated.”

Defence solicitor Daniel Woodman said his client had acted “foolishly and thoughtlessly”, and added that he was “a man of impeccable character having never troubled the courts before.”

Mr Savory was fined £335 and was also required to pay £364.08 costs and a victim surcharge of £33, after admitting a breach of section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 by unlawfully obtaining personal data.

ICO Head of Enforcement Steve Eckersley said:

“This was an unusual case in many ways, but one which demonstrates the lengths some people will go to in order to get hold of personal information.

“Unlawfully obtaining people’s personal data is a criminal offence and the ICO will not hesitate to take action through the courts to uphold the law and protect people’s rights.”

If there are any lessons to be learned from this case, it is firstly that everyone needs to display the highest standards of honesty and integrity throughout their business activities. Secondly, business professionals must keep their personal and business lives separate.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.