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Private investigators were fined €20k for using family connections in the gardaí to access info

Eamon O’Mordha & Company was digging up information for insurance company clients.

Image: Shutterstock/Mike Focus

A PRIVATE INVESTIGATION firm and one of its directors were fined €20,000 last year for disclosing data it obtained from family and friends in a state department and An Garda Síochána.

The confirmation of the fine was included in the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner’s annual report.

Two years ago, the Data Protection Commissioner’s special investigations unit examined Dublin-based Eamon O’Mordha & Company after obtaining copies of reports the firm compiled for clients in the insurance sector.

The documentation compiled by Eamon O’Mordha & Company dated back to 2014 and 2015.

The data regulator commenced the investigation into the outfit – which is headed up by husband and wife Eamon and Ann O’Mordha – after it became suspicious of how the firm accessed some of the personal data in the reports.

As part of the investigation, the regulator uncovered the company accessed social welfare information held by the Department of Social Protection and An Garda Síochána records contained in its Pulse database.

An official from the Department of Social Protection interviewed as part of the investigation revealed that she released the information to two directors of the company.

She said the directors were friends of hers and admitted that one of them met with her regularly to ask her to check information on the department’s database.

The investigation also uncovered that two serving members of An Garda Síochána – one of whom is a brother and the other a nephew of Ann O’Mordha - were contacted for information.

They said O’Mordha wanted to obtain information in relation to individuals and vehicle registration numbers from the Pulse database.

Both members of An Garda Síochána admitted they accessed the Pulse database and passed on personal information.

Prosecution

Following the investigation, the directors of the company – Eamonn O’Mordha and his wife, Ann – were charged with 37 counts of breaches for their part in the offences.

The charged related to breaches of the Data Protection Acts for obtaining access to personal data without the prior authority of the data controller.

Last May, the company pleaded guilty to 12 charges and the Dublin Metropolitan District Court convicted the company on 10 of those charges. The court imposed 10 fines of €1,000 on the company which totalled €10,000.

Company director Ann O’Mordha pleaded guilty to 12 charges and the court convicted her on 10 of those. She was fined €10,000.

Continued focus

The special investigations unit within the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has focused specifically on looking into breaches made by firms and individuals in the private investigators industry in recent years.

According to the data regulator’s annual report, these investigations have resulted in several prosecutions.

The report noted that due to the “high level of breaches” uncovered in the sector, the special investigations unit will continue take a special interest in monitoring firms in this space.

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Written by Killian Woods and posted on Fora.ie

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