Man seeks damages for Dept of Social Protection official giving his address to her brother-in-law private detective

Man seeks damages for Dept of Social Protection official giving his address to her brother-in-law private detective
Daniel Lannon leaving court today. Pic: Collins

A damages claim by a man whose address was given to a private detective hired by solicitors acting for AIB bank by an official at the Department of Social Protection has opened before the High Court.

49-year-old Daniel Lannon is seeking damages and aggravated damages against the Minister for Social Protection for what he claims was a breach of his privacy and his data protection rights in 2014. The Department opposes the claim.

Represented by Jim O'Callaghan SC, with Darren Lehane Bl, Mr Lannon claims that on August 22, 2014, his personal data, including his address at Colpe View, Deepforde, Dublin Road, Drogheda, was accessed by a member of the department's staff and provided to a private investigator (PI).

The PI had been hired by a solicitor's firm acting on behalf of AIB.

He claims the information was used so AIB could serve legal proceedings on him at his Drogheda address.

Mr O'Callaghan said Mr Lannon did not provide the bank with the Drogheda address, and instead had used the address of a property he owned at Burnell Square, Malahide Road, Dublin for correspondence with AIB.

The Dublin property was mortgaged to AIB. Mr Lannon who had worked in the construction industry fell into arrears with the bank after works started to dry up from 2007 onwards.

After the bank wrote to him at the Drogheda address Mr Lannon made a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC).

That resulted in the DPC prosecuting the Private Investigator Michael Ryan, and his company Glen Collection Investments Limited. In October 2016 those parties pleaded guilty to certain data breaches and were fined €7,500 by the district court.

As well as damages breaching his constitutional and EU rights to privacy Mr Lannon, who now operates a mediation business seeks declarations that the department breached its duty of care in regards to his personal data.

He told Mr Justice Tony O'Connor today that he had never received an apology from the department for the data breach.

However, under cross-examination from Conor Power SC for the department, Mr Lannon accepted that he had a legal obligation under the terms of his mortgage to inform AIB of his change of address when he moved to Drogheda but had failed to do so.

He said while he used the Dublin apartment as his address, and had always tried to engage and deal with the bank, he did not live there and had rented it out.

AIB, he said, had got an order for the repossession of that property, which he said currently lies idle.

In its defence, the department accepts that one of its former staff members, Ms Caitriona Bracken, accessed Mr Lannon's private data and provided it to Mr Ryan who is Ms Bracken's brother-in-law.

The department says that it was not liable for the negligent actions of Ms Bracken.

Any injury to Mr Lannon was caused by Ms Bracken's actions, it claims.

Arising out of Mr Lannon's complaints she was dismissed from her employment at the department in 2017, Mr Power told the court.

It also argues that the proceedings amount to an abuse of process, as Mr Lannon had previously brought but discontinued similar action against the department.

Ms Bracken of Kilkerrin, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, had been added to the proceedings by the department as a third party.

In her defence, she claimed that the release of data was "commonplace," and it was "an accepted work practice of the department's management and staff to release information to Gardaí, solicitors and private investigators upon request".

However, during the course of today's hearing, Mr Power said the department was no longer seeking any relief against Ms Bracken and she and her legal team could be let out of the case.

The hearing continues.

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