AOH :: ISN-1409.HTM

Tycoon fined for e-mail spying




Tycoon fined for e-mail spying
Tycoon fined for e-mail spying



http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1782674,00.html 

By Lewis Smith
September 16, 2005 

AN INTERNET pioneer who uncovered the e-mails that forced Dame Shirley 
Porter to pay =A312.3 million to end the homes-for-votes scandal was 
fined yesterday for hacking into the messages. 

Clifford Stanford, the founder of Demon Internet, was plotting a 
boardroom takeover of an electronic data firm and intercepted e-mails 
to and from Dame Shirley's son, John. 

The contents revealed that Dame Shirley had access to many millions of 
pounds despite her claim to have assets of only =A3300,000 when faced 
with a =A342 million surcharge for vote-rigging. 

Details of the e-mails were passed to the media and Westminster City 
Council. Soon after =A325 million of assets were frozen, Dame Shirley 
offered to pay =A312.3 million to settle the case. Dame Shirley, as Tory 
leader of Westminster council during the 1980s, had overseen the 
selling of council homes in marginal wards to people thought likely to 
vote Conservative, while the homeless were placed in asbestos-ridden 
tower blocks in safe Labour wards. 

Allegations of gerrymandering ended with an auditor ordering her and 
fellow councillors to pay a =A331.6 million surcharge. That was upheld 
by the House of Lords, but Dame Shirley maintained that she was too 
poor to pay. 

With interest and legal fees increasing the surcharge to 
=A342 million, the dispute continued until her son's e-mails revealed 
that she was offering to bankroll him. Stanford, however, had not set 
out to find the truth about Dame Shirley's finances, but was spying on 
her son to oust him from the board of Redbus, the data company. 

When he saw Mr Porter's e-mails, he wrote to his accomplice: "Where do 
we go from here? Do we try to blackmail him into resigning from the 
board or do we go to the institutional shareholders or the press with 
it?" The two men had set up Redbus together, with Stanford investing 
much of the =A329 million he made from the sale of Demon. 

In June 2002, after falling out with Mr Porter, Stanford resigned from 
Redbus but kept his 30 per cent shareholding and began plotting a 
return to the board. Software was installed that ensured Mr Porter's 
e-mails were copied to an account set up by Stanford's accomplice, 
George Liddell, a private investigator. 

The electronic spying amounted to "unlawful and unauthorised 
interception of electronic communications" under the Regulation of 
Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000. Sarah Whitehouse, for the 
prosecution, said: "A vast amount of information was copied to that 
e-mail account, including information about John Porter and his family 
and his bank account details." 

Among the messages were "privileged legal documents", personal e-mails 
and business memos. Mr Porter and fellow board members realised what 
was happening only when details of a meeting was posted on a website 
within 15 minutes. 

Stanford and Liddell were cleared of conspiring to blackmail Dame 
Shirley and her son, but both admitted unauthorised interception of 
e-mails. 

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, QC, who sentenced the men at Southwark Crown 
Court in London yesterday, said that the offence was an unjustified 
breach of confidentiality. 

He gave them both a six-month suspended prison sentence and ordered 
Stanford to pay a =A320,000 fine. 

The judge said: "It is essential people, in whatever walks of life, 
and, of course, those running important businesses, should know that 
the integrity of their confidential communication should be 
respected."

David Martin-Sperry, counsel for Liddell, said his client's decision 
to take material to Westminster council's lawyers had benefited many 
people. 

Helen McDowell, Stanford's solicitor, said that he would appeal.

-=-

WHAT'S BANNED AND WHAT'S NOT 

Potentially lawful: looking over someone's shoulder to read e-mails 

Definitely unlawful: hacking into a computer to read their e-mails 

Potentially lawful: placing a bugging device near a telephone 

Definitely unlawful: using a bugging device in a telephone handset 

Potentially lawful: using a directional amplifier to listen to a 
mobile phone conversation 

Definitely unlawful: listening to the conversation by intercepting the 
signal 

Source: Justice



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