During the current lockdown, you may be faced with the additional difficulty of having to share a home with your spouse or partner at the same time that your relationship breaks down. During such a time, it is not unusual to suspect your partner of wrongdoing. Temptation may arise to search for evidence by looking at your partner’s emails and downloading documents. However, you should be aware that if you do then you have committed an illegal act and possibly a criminal offence.
Furthermore, this is not a new problem. In a Financial Court case in 2010, a wife was severely criticised by a Judge for relying on documents that she had obtained directly from her husband’s computer. The Judge commented that the “removal of papers”, even electronically, might involve offences such as theft or burglary and where information is downloaded from a computer; there may be criminal offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the Data Protection Act 1998.
Furthermore, you could also find yourself in trouble in the Civil Courts as a civil action arises for breach of confidence and invasion of privacy for which the Court could order the guilty party to pay damages and costs.
In the Court proceedings in 2010, the wife’s solicitor was ordered to return all the documentation and was prevented from relying upon them in the proceedings. It could have been a lot worse.
The simple rule is do not be tempted to access private emails or documents belonging to your spouse or partner, whatever your suspicions. If you do have concerns, then you should seek legal advice.
Maxwell Hodge have a dedicated family team who can advise you and can offer a fixed fee consultation at a reasonable cost.