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Request for driver/hirer details from solicitor
Drofder
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 14:10
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Looking for a bit of advice.

We have been sent a letter (fairly informal looking) that alleges that our hirer was involved in a "theft", where our hirer took items from the 'claimant' and left without paying. They contacted the police but the police have said it is a civil matter and therefore no crime reference numbers have been given (assuming the police are treating it as an unpaid invoice?).

With data protection being critical, I want to make sure that the correct procedure is being used and that their request for information is done legally.

Does anyone know if there are specific forms, procedures or details required in the process of identifying a driver when using a solicitor or if a simple letter asking for information is enough? Also, the letter has no reference number and is signed off as the company name (not an individual solicitor).

As a note, I have checked the validity of the solictors firm and they are SRA regulated.

Any information is appreciated.
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The Rookie
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 16:22
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My understanding is the only way they can make you provide the drivers details is by a court order, others you can merely reply stating you won’t be providing it. See what others say.



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Fredd
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 16:53
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Perhaps more to the point, if you're the Data Controller then even if you want to cooperate with them it's still down to you to satisfy yourself that you have a lawful cause to disclose your customer's personal data to them before you can do anything. The solicitors can ask for whatever they want (and there are no specified forms etc), it's your responsibility to ensure that personal data is processed lawfully.


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southpaw82
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 17:10
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One factor to consider is whether there are obvious grounds to release the data requested. If it is but you make them apply for (and get) a court order they may argue that you should pay the costs of that. It’s a somewhat remote risk.


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Redivi
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 19:18
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A few thoughts

We all know what the answer would be but couldn't the OP ask the hirer's permission to provide his details ?

The OP could ask the solicitor for the identity of the claimant
If the solicitor refuses, the OP can certainly justify not releasing the information

The OP could ask for a letter from the solicitor that indemnifies his company from all losses and damages that might arise from the release of the details
He could, for example, be sued by the hirer if the claim fails.
If this is refused, it would be reasonable not to release the information without the protection of a court order

There's also the option of telling the solicitor not to accept the police "it's a civil matter sir" routine
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southpaw82
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 19:31
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QUOTE (Redivi @ Fri, 10 May 2019 - 20:18) *
The OP could ask the solicitor for the identity of the claimant
If the solicitor refuses, the OP can certainly justify not releasing the information

Why is the identity of the claimant a factor?


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Fredd
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 19:56
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I'm not sure how asking for an indemnity against potentially committing a criminal offence would work, either.


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Drofder
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 20:55
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Thanks for the replies all and you're all somewhat echoing what we think to be the case. Will probably have to take it to a solicitor and see what they say.

To add a bit more information, I originally spoke to the 'claimant'. They have twice attempted to request the drivers details over the phone directly and have flat out refused those requests and told them they had to use legal channels (either the police or a solicitor) to request the details. Two days later the letter arrived. It's informally written and simply states they want the person details to summons that person.

I did tell them if it was theft, then they need to push the police to treat it as one.
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southpaw82
post Fri, 10 May 2019 - 21:32
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So you’ve said “go and get a solicitor to request it”, and they have. Why say that if you won’t release it to a solicitor?


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Redivi
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 01:50
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Is the solicitor potentially in trouble for defamation if he's told the OP in writing that the hirer stole some items, instead of referring to an unpaid invoice ?

He can't deny knowing that there was no theft if that's what he was told by the police, whether correct or not
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The Rookie
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 03:05
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I would imagine the solicitor has couched it more subtly than that 'potentially' or 'believed to' perhaps.


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Drofder
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 07:45
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QUOTE (southpaw82 @ Fri, 10 May 2019 - 22:32) *
So you’ve said “go and get a solicitor to request it”, and they have. Why say that if you won’t release it to a solicitor?


Because I cannot imagine the legal procedure from a solicitor simply being "We are a solicitor, tell us your customers name please."
I instructed them to use a solicitor because they would know the correct route for obtaining information.

Does simply 'being a solicitor' entitle that person to access protected data?

QUOTE (The Rookie @ Sat, 11 May 2019 - 04:05) *
I would imagine the solicitor has couched it more subtly than that 'potentially' or 'believed to' perhaps.


The exact wording is "Our client confirms that the driver of the vehicle has commited an offece of theft" and "The matter was reported to the police and the officer at the scene for some strange reason thought it was a civil matter."
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The Rookie
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 08:05
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QUOTE (Drofder @ Sat, 11 May 2019 - 07:45) *
QUOTE (southpaw82 @ Fri, 10 May 2019 - 22:32) *
So you’ve said “go and get a solicitor to request it”, and they have. Why say that if you won’t release it to a solicitor?


Because I cannot imagine the legal procedure from a solicitor simply being "We are a solicitor, tell us your customers name please."
I instructed them to use a solicitor because they would know the correct route for obtaining information.

What makes you think there is any such correct route? That is all there is to it. In essence you defined the route you wanted used and they have now used it. The time to ask what the options may be was before you defined the procedure you told them to use I think.

I'm quite surprised they stated it is theft, rather than making an allegation, rather poor form but I don't think it has any material effect unless you can use that to determine that the solicitor and their client cannot then be classed as having no lawful cause on the basis they have already formed a conclusion.

I'm very surprised the Police considered it civil (it's not, although recovery would be) especially as the person/entity who may have suffered a loss doesn't know who to reclaim it from, I'd at least have expected the Police to try and identify the 'accused' such that they could.


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Redivi
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 08:35
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How about sending a copy in an envelope marked "Private and Confidential" to the Senior Partner ?

Dear Sir

Ref (Request for driver's details (date))

I have received the enclosed letter on your company's notepaper

It has no name or reference number but requests the personal details of one of our customers against whom it makes a serious allegation

You will be well aware that the GDPR does not permit us to release this information unless our customer consents, or we have determined that providing the information is legitimate processing. The information in your letter is inadequate to proceed and we are not, in fact, confident that it was even sent with the authority of (Solicitors name)

Would you therefore please :

1 Confirm that the letter was sent by yourselves?
2 Provide a reference number and name of the person handing the case?
3 The name of the claimant and the location/date of the alleged incident?

We will then be able to promptly address you request

Thank You

Yours Faithfully








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Fredd
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 09:03
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That addresses one issue, but I'm not sure how it will provide enough information for the Data Controller to decide whether they can lawfully disclose the personal data. "Because a solicitor said so" isn't good enough.

@Drofder, from your posts I think you need to learn more about your responsibilities as a Data Controller/Data Processor; the ICO website provides quite accessible advice.


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Redivi
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 10:11
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It may or may not be good enough

The important point for the OP is that he's started the paper trail to justify his eventual decision

The ICO may work differently but, in my field, compliance is dealt with by the HSE
If a decision is documented along with its reasoning, they won't usually say it was wrong

The ICO guide needs to be read, especially the section about legitimate interests

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-...df&patch=97

This includes a link to Data Protection Impact Assessments

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-...;patch=97#dpia5

What the OP can do is to ask the ICO for advice
A reply will almost certainly include a comment that it's not legal advice but, if the OP follows it, any prosecution or claim from the hirer is going to struggle
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seank
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 10:15
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The Police presumably know a lot more about the problem than the OP is revealing and they have decided it's a civil matter and not criminal theft.
I bow to Fredd's knowledge of the DPA and the GDPR, both of 2018.
I cannot see why the OP would release the hirer's details, despite the advice he gave the claimant. It is surely up to the claimant to pursue the defendant. How could he have raised a claim anyway? Who would it be against?

I did smile at the thought of Plod refusing to act, if it really were a criminal theft. I watched them dancing and skateboarding with the Extinction protesters in London while doing nothing about the obstruction of the highway, preventing people getting to work.
In Leeds (Chapeltown) the Chief Con was commenting about the prostitutes there, saying they were given free condoms, needles and help and shelter as required. When asked what Plod was doing for the residents, the answer was that they'd no resources.
Local businesses have to pay for private security companies now.
A bit like the Post Office. Still calls itself the Post Office, but doesn't deliver letters any more.
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southpaw82
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 11:21
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QUOTE (Drofder @ Sat, 11 May 2019 - 08:45) *
QUOTE (southpaw82 @ Fri, 10 May 2019 - 22:32) *
So you’ve said “go and get a solicitor to request it”, and they have. Why say that if you won’t release it to a solicitor?


Because I cannot imagine the legal procedure from a solicitor simply being "We are a solicitor, tell us your customers name please."
I instructed them to use a solicitor because they would know the correct route for obtaining information.

You imagine wrong.

I can well believe there will be some frustration with you when you’ve said to get a solicitor to ask, they have done, and you turn around and say no anyway. That would prompt me to apply to court for an order compelling you to provide the information within 7 days and I would chance an application for costs against you.

The position of the police in this is a red herring. Just because they think a theft has not occurred doesn’t mean they are right. Equally, it is unlikely that the information is being requested to pursue a private prosecution for theft, it is going to be for a civil action, the grounds for which the police are unable to comment on.

I can completely understand you wanting the protection of a court order but you ought to have said that rather than leading them down the garden path of implying you would respond to a request from a solicitor.

Finally, it is entirely normal for a letter from a firm to be signed in the firm’s name rather than an individual.


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henrik777
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 12:16
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QUOTE (southpaw82 @ Sat, 11 May 2019 - 12:21) *
Finally, it is entirely normal for a letter from a firm to be signed in the firm’s name rather than an individual.


So normal some of them think they can sign claim forms that way rolleyes.gif


Solicitors are not all members of mensa.
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Redivi
post Sat, 11 May 2019 - 13:02
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I thought it was standard procedure that claims are signed in the name of the practice, not the solicitor

I recall the subject came up a few years ago when Civil Enforcement claims were signed ias Sethi Partnership by a solicitor that didn't work there
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