A judge has accepted an offer of 20,000 euros in damages from Irish Life Assurance to a nine-year-old child who at the age of just two was illegally photographed in his high chair in seclusion in his own home by a secret investigator.
Barrister James Lawless told Circuit Civil Court Judge Sarah Berkeley today that little Erin Marsha Went’s mother Terry was being investigated by Irish Life Assurance agents in connection with a disputed income protection policy when the photographs of Erin had been taken.
Mr Lawless, who appeared before Erin with Matthew Byrne of Burns Nowlan Solicitors, Main Street, Newbridge, Co Kildare, told the court that the private detective agency had violated the child’s privacy, her data protection rights and the inviolability of her home.
The court heard that Terry Went, from Season Park, Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, had filed a claim with Irish Life Assurance under her insurance and Irish Life had hired IBI International Bureau of Investigations Limited to carry out covert surveillance of her activities and movements.
Lawless told Judge Berkeley that the IBI office in Marino Mart, Fairview, Dublin, which was dissolved in July 2019, had followed Went and her baby Erin on different dates in 2015 and without them knowing if they had filmed them in Dunnes Stores Supermarket in Main Street, Newtownmountkennedy and in his car in Dunnes Stores parking and during other daily activities.
He said that IBI had even secretly photographed Erin in her mother’s driveway, at her front door and through a window had taken pictures and recordings of the child with her mother and grandmother in her own home. The recordings and images had been forwarded to Irish Life Assurance at its Irish Life Center office, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.
Unpixeled images of the child had been retained by Irish Life Assurance, which had provided a defense in which the company had not admitted liability and had denied any breach of data protection law. IBI had previously been discontinued as a party to the proceedings.
Mr Lawless said that Irish Life Assurance had earlier made a settlement offer in Erin’s claim of 60,000 euros of 7,500 euros which, on his recommendation, had been thrown out by Judge John O’Connor during a previous hearing in the Circuit Civil Court.
Judge O’Connor had told him that, given the secret recording and the offenses and errors committed against the child, the court considered that a settlement offer should be at least 20,000 euros.
Mr Lawless told Judge Berkeley on Tuesday that he and Burns Nowlan Solicitors had come to court prepared to fight Erin’s case but at the last minute Irish Life had made an offer, without acknowledging liability, of 20,000 euros and he recommended accepting it. by the court.
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Judge Berkely, who expressed shock at the fact that photographs had been taken through the window of the child’s home, approved the settlement and awarded district court costs against Irish Life.
She ordered that the money be put into court funds until Erin, now nine, reaches her majority in 2031. The court can, in the meantime, control the payment of small sums in the case of such things as training costs for Erin.
Mr Lawless had told the court that Erin’s mother had not given any consent to the surveillance and had been completely unaware that it had taken place. He had been prepared to initiate, among other things, the crucial case of Kennedy v. Ireland, in which the High Court, in the infamous telephone tapping case, had upheld the citizen’s right to privacy under the Constitution.
The Irish Life Insurance legal team, after informing Judge Berkeley about their € 20,000 offer, had to withdraw from the court while the circumstances of the case were described by Mr Lawless.
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