Friday 22 February 2019

Insurance firm got private eye to spy on family

Irish Life hired the investigator to snoop on Elaine Fenton
Irish Life hired the investigator to snoop on Elaine Fenton

A private detective was hired by Irish Life Assurance to spy on a couple and their six-year-old daughter.

Lawyer Patrick Keane told the Circuit Civil Court that the investigator was sent to a Galway hotel to snoop on John and Elaine Fenton and their daughter, Emma.

He said the investigator took photos and a video of the family that were given to Irish Life, which wanted to find out if banker Ms Fenton was scamming the company for income protection after becoming ill.

Mr Keane said €60,000 claims by Mr and Ms Fenton had been settled confidentially with Irish Life, but the court had to approve or reject a €50,000 settlement offer from Irish Life to Emma, now 16.


Mr Keane said Irish Life had hired Reliance Investigation Services to investigate Ms Fenton, an employee of Allied Irish Banks.

"While doing that, they took photographs of Mr and Ms Fenton and of six-year-old Emma after following them into a hotel," Mr Keane said.

"They photographed Emma and her parents coming out of a lift in the hotel, and some photographs centred only on the infant plaintiff."

He told Judge Terrence O'Sullivan that the pictures had been taken with regard to informing Irish Life if Ms Fenton was capable of resuming work.

The family, of Templeroan Meadows, Knocklyon, Rathfarnham, did not know they were being photographed and there was no parental consent for photographs of the child being taken.

Mr Keane said Irish Life was offering Emma - who had developed psychological trauma after finding out about the private detective - a settlement of €50,000 and costs.

He said it could be extremely difficult to recover damages under the Data Protection Act, so he was recommending acceptance of the offer to the court.

Judge O'Sullivan said he was very happy to approve the offer and direct the money be paid into court until Emma's 18th birthday in April 2020.

In October 2008, Ms Fenton had entered a claim against her income protection policy after becoming ill.

Irish Life had ceased paying her benefit from November 22, 2010, a decision she had appealed.

Sarah Moorhead, for Irish Life, had told the court the assurance company was making the €50,000 settlement offer to Emma and was consenting to her parents' claims being struck out.

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