Man sues wife over ‘hacking’ in midst of divorce

Man sues wife over ‘hacking’ in midst of divorce

While they were going through a bitter divorce, a woman hacked into her husband's laptop and used the information against him, the man has claimed.

And it was her own lawyers who recommended the hacker to her, it is alleged.

The man is suing both his estranged wife and her law firm for trespass and breach of confidence, in addition to the ongoing divorce proceedings.

High Court Justice Quentin Loh, in dealing with the case, was so concerned to learn of these allegations that he has asked the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to probe.

"I was troubled by the allegation that lawyers were putting forward a computer expert to hack into opposing parties' computers, notebooks or iPhones," he said in judgment grounds released last week.

"There was also possible perjury and breaches of professional ethics and rules," he noted, adding that crimes could have been committed, including those under the Computer Misuse Act.

Although the judge allowed the information obtained by the wife to be used in the divorce case, he also gave the green light for the husband's lawyer Edmund Kronenburg to appeal against this decision.

If it is overturned by the Court of Appeal, this will be a landmark case because it means that information obtained illegally cannot be used in civil proceedings.

The judge also clarified that it was up to the Family Court dealing with the divorce to decide if the information was to be admitted as evidence.

The couple, who started divorce proceedings two years ago, cannot be named to protect the identity of their two children, aged eight and six.

The man claims that his wife copied the contents of his laptop in December 2012, including backup data from his iPhone, when he was on holiday in Hong Kong with the children.

Her sworn statements to the Family Court later contained information taken from the laptop, including SMS and WhatsApp messages.

She denied hacking into the laptop. But the woman, who had already moved out of the family home at the time, did admit she had returned to get her belongings.

She noticed the laptop, accessed it and saw a number of files on the desktop which she claimed included a plot to frame her.

So she asked her private investigator, Mr Dennis Lee, to make copies of the relevant files to show that the husband had been untruthful during divorce proceedings.

Mr Lee was someone who had been recommended to various clients of family lawyers, including the woman's lawyer in the family court proceedings, as someone "who could hack into computers, notebooks or iPhones, whether protected by a password or not", according to allegations noted by the judge.

Said Justice Loh: "Dennis Lee is not the usual private investigator in divorce cases but was clearly retained because of his expertise in computers."

He noted that there was an "evasive silence" as to how he came to be hired by the wife.

"No doubt the police or the AGC will get to the bottom of this matter," he added.

Stressing that he had not yet come to conclusions about the allegations, he made it clear that the court "takes a very dim view of solicitors who sanction, let alone encourage, their clients' involvement in such illicit activities as hacking".

"Most upsetting is that in the middle of this maelstrom are two young, innocent children," said the judge, adding that their interests had been "overshadowed completely".

When contacted, an AGC spokesman declined comment as the case is being investigated by the police.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 17, 2014.
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