A retired garda working as a private investigator for Quinn Insurance has admitted asking his daughter-in-law, a former Revenue Commissioners employee, to look up files of people who had claims against the insurer.
A sentence hearing of three people charged with offences under the Data Protection Act heard that gardaí were called into investigate data breaches relating to an executive of Brinks Allied security company.
There was a fear that the data breaches could be part of a plot to carry out a “tiger kidnapping” on the employee and his family.
The second data breach was related to a former employee of the Revenue Commissioner who was then working for the European Anti-Fraud office in Brussels and was involved in investigating the importation of tobacco products.
The court heard how a garda investigation found that the motives for the data breaches were “more mundane than sinister” and related to business associations and not any other criminal activity.
Adele McKeown (aged 27) of Knockshee View, Old Golf Links Road, Blackrock, Co Louth pleaded guilty to disclosing personal data to her father John McKeown (aged 51) on March 5, 2009. Her father of Ave Maria, Dublin Road, Dundalk, admitted asking her to disclose the data.
Retired Detective Garda Gerry Murray (aged 58), also with an address in Dundalk, pleaded guilty to asking Adele to look up Revenue Commission records for a named individual on June 10, 2010.
Ms McKeown was also charged with four other counts of disclosing personal data of four other named individuals and these charges were taken into consideration.
At the time Ms McKeown was engaged to and has since married Murray’s son, who is a member of the Irish Defence Forces.
Detective Sergeant Nigel Mulleady told Mr Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, that gardaí were called in by the Revenue Commissioner when inquires about the anti-fraud official’s tax records from a UK based private investigator raised suspicions.
An internal investigator with the Revenue Commission carried out a check on the injured party’s file and it emerged that Ms McKeown had been accessing that file and others, including the file of a senior executive at Brinks Allied.
In October 2010, Adele was interviewed by Gardaí and admitted looking up the first man’s file at the request of her father.
Det Sgt Mulleady said that John McKeown asked his daughter to check up on this man’s record as a favour to a business associate of his but that neither of the McKeowns received any financial reward.
The court heard that retired Gda Gerry Murray was carrying out investigations on behalf of Quinn Insurance in relation to people who had claims against the insurance company.
Mr Coffey said in relation to both injured parties that it was a co-incidence that their jobs were sensitive and that there was no “nefarious motivation” involved.
Mr Remy Farrell SC, defending all three, said that Murray did not realise he was breaking the law.
He said Adele McKeown had worked for Revenue since she was 22 and had lost her job as a result of her actions.
Mr Farrell said both Gerry Murray and John McKeown were highly regarded in the local community and both had a history of involvement with local charities.
He said Murray had an exemplary service with the Gardaí and felt a deep sense of shame for involving himself and his in-laws in this action.
Mr Coffey said that because the investigation began as a garda investigation the Data Protection Commissioner left it within garda jurisdiction.
Judge Patrick McCartan said that this prosecution should challenge a “culture of letting information become available”.
He said that members of the public are entitled to have confidence that information held about them will not be made available to anyone else.
He said the breaches in this case were not unduly sinister and that they were possibly done without an appreciation of the seriousness of the actions.
He applied the Probation Act to each of the accused and ordered that they pay €1,000 to the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
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