File-sharing lawyer "not likely" to pay £800 ICO fine

6 Jul 2011
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The ICO has said it doesn't expect to get its already discounted penalty from bankrupt solicitor

A file-sharing law firm has managed to avoid paying a massively reduced fine after leaking an email database.

ACS Law sent letters demanding settlements of as much as £500 to accused file-sharers, gaining the attention of hackers who targeted the law firm's website in retaliation.

That led to the leak of an email database, which included personal messages from the firm's sole solicitor Andrew Crossley, as well as names of those alleged to have illegally downloaded pornography.

As punishment, the Information Commissioner's Office initially decided on a £200,000 fine - which would have been the largest doled out by the data watchdog, as well as the first to an entirely private firm.

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However, the ICO cut the fine to only £800 after Crossley signed an affidavit saying he was of "limited means" - despite living in a five-bedroom house with a Bentley on the drive.

Now, the ICO has revealed ACS Law isn't likely to pay any fine at all as Crossley has since declared bankruptcy.

In a Q&A session to mark the ICO's annual report, the watchdog was asked which organisations were given a discount on penalties by paying on time. "All of them apart from ACS law who were subject to a bankruptcy order and thus not able to pay," the ICO said.

An ICO spokesman told PC Pro that there was still a "limited chance of being paid," but what money remained with ACS Law was being divvied up among a "long list of creditors" - with the ICO at the end of it.

Crossley had told PC Pro that he'd considered appealing the judgement, but the ICO said no appeal had been filed yet.

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