A company director who went far too far to make sure his ex-wife didi not cheat him in their divorce settlement was recently sent to jail after his zeal led him to commit false accounting and invasion of privacy.
Wishing to make sure that the financial settlement between them took account of all her assets, he arranged for a firm of private detectives to plant ‘key tracking’ software on her computer, which recorded all the keystrokes she made on it. For eleven months, the agency provided him with reports on her activity and details of transactions made when she used her online banking services.
The director compounded his bad behaviour by arranging for the detective agency to invoice his company for this work. The company paid £50,000 plus VAT and the amount was improperly recorded as a business expense, not as private expenditure. This also created an incorrect recovery of the input VAT on the bill.
Following an investigation of the activities of the detective agency, the director and two of his co-directors were arrested and charged with false accounting and other offences.
The director concerned was previously of good character and was over 60 years old but, despite such mitigating factors, was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. The other directors involved received lesses punishments.
An appeal against the sentence, claiming that the disparity in the sentences was unjust, was rejected by the Court of Appeal. The method by which information had been obtained was a gross intrusion into the ex-wife’s privacy and the judge had been correct in concluding that the ‘custody threshold’ had been breached.