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Landmark jail sentence for man who stole client data for CMCs

Accident repair: Employee convicted over unauthorised acccess to data

A man who passed on thousands of an accident repair company’s customer records to claims management companies has been jailed in a landmark prosecution.

Though the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) usually prosecutes under the Data Protection Act 1998 or 2018, for the first time it used the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This gives the sentencing court a wider range of penalties.

Mustafa Kasim pleaded guilty to a charge of securing unauthorised access to personal data between 13 January 2016 and 19 October 2016, and was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court in north London.

Mr Kasim, who worked for accident repair firm Nationwide Accident Repair Services (NARS), accessed thousands of customer records containing personal data without permission, using his colleagues’ log-in details to access a software system that estimates the cost of vehicle repairs, known as Audatex.

He continued to do this after he started a new job at a different car repair organisation which used the same software system. The records contained customers’ names, phone numbers, vehicle and accident information.

NARS contacted the ICO when they saw an increase in customer complaints about nuisance calls and assisted the ICO with their investigation.

Mike Shaw, head of criminal investigations at the ICO, said: “Although this was a data protection issue, in this case we were able to prosecute beyond data protection laws resulting in a tougher penalty to reflect the nature of the criminal behaviour…

“Data obtained in these circumstances is a valuable commodity, and there was evidence of customers receiving unwarranted calls from claims management companies, causing unnecessary anxiety and distress.

“The potential reputational damage to affected companies whose data is stolen in this way can be immeasurable. Both Nationwide Accident Repair Services and Audatex have put appropriate technical and organisational measures in place to ensure that this cannot happen again.”

Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to recover any benefit obtained as a result of the offending, have been commenced and are ongoing.

Earlier this year, another NARS employee who downloaded and sold the personal data of motorists to nuisance callers was convicted under the Data Protection Act [1] of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing data. Phillip Bagnall was fined £500.