The data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has successfully prosecuted a recruitment consultant who unlawfully stole the data of clients belonging to a firm he had worked for.

The individual previously worked for a recruitment firm as an employee but left this employment in October 2017 in order to set up his own company. His new firm would also operate in the veterinary recruitment sector, and so could be said to be a rival to his former employer.

Shortly afterwards, his Exeter-based former employer contacted him to ask if he had taken any data from their database, and he confirmed that he had, but said it was merely “for his own record of achievement.”

The firm however referred the matter to the ICO, and after conducting its own investigation, the regulator concluded that he had taken the personal data of some 272 clients, and that he had done so for the purposes of commercial gain.

In an appearance before Exeter magistrates on May 21, he pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining personal data under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. For this, he was fined £355, and was also required to pay costs of £700 and a victim surcharge of £35.

Mike Shaw, Criminal Investigations Manager at the ICO, said:

“[NAME] thought he could get away with stealing from his old employer to launch his own company.

“Data Protection laws are there for a reason and the ICO will continue to take action against those who abuse their position.”

Employees of authorised financial services firms are amongst those who need to take note of this case. For example, some financial advisers have in the past moved to another firm but continued to contact the same clients that they serviced on behalf of their previous firm. Unless their contract of employment stated otherwise, or the firm they left gave specific permission for the adviser to take their clients with them, the clients legally still belong to the firm and not to the adviser. This means that, in these circumstances, the adviser would not be able to contact the clients they serviced at their previous firm once they had commenced employment with the new firm.

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