Employees who take information about clients with them when they move jobs are committing a criminal offence, the information commissioner has warned solicitors after a paralegal was fined £300 yesterday. 

James Pickles, 29, who previously worked at Jordans Solicitors in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, was prosecuted for illegally taking information about more than 100 people before leaving for a rival firm in April 2013. The information was contained in six emails sent by Pickles in the weeks before he left Jordans.

Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court heard that Pickles had hoped to use the information, which included workload lists, file notes and template documents, in his new role.    

He was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act, fined £300, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £438.63 prosecution costs.

Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said: ‘Stealing personal information is a crime. The information contained in the documents taken by James Pickles included sensitive details relating to individuals involved in ongoing legal proceedings.

‘He took this information without the permission of his former employer and has been rewarded with a day in court and a substantial fine.’

Offences under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 are punishable by fines of up to £5,000 in a magistrates’ court or an unlimited fine in a Crown court.