By Ben Simmons

Four private investigators, one of whom has been embroiled in the News of the World phone hacking scandal, have been jailed for ‘blagging’, the Information Commissioner’s Office has said.

“The scourge of data theft continues to threaten the privacy rights of the UK population,” said Christopher Graham, UK Information Commissioner. “Whilst we welcome today’s sentencing of the private investigator, Graham Freeman, and his three accomplices, the outcome of the case underlines the need for a comprehensive approach to deterring information theft. If SOCA had been restricted to pursuing this case solely using their powers under the Data Protection Act then these individuals would have been faced with a small fine and would have been able to continue their activities the very next day. This is not good enough.

“Unscrupulous individuals will continue to try and obtain peoples’ information through deception until there are strong punishments to fit the crime. We must not delay in getting a custodial sentence in place for section 55 offences under the Data Protection Act.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) worked with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to secure today’s convictions under the Fraud Act. The ICO advised SOCA on the data protection issues connected to the case and will now be provided with additional material from the SOCA for further investigation. The ICO does not rule out taking further action against the organisations that received this information, if it becomes clear that they failed to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

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