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One in 5 people going through divorce ‘uses surveillance equipment to spy on spouse’

Exclusive: ‘I would often see that a man uses covert recordings to ‘prove’ something,’ lawyer says

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Tuesday 20 July 2021 10:20 BST
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Managing director of law firm says more men than women covertly record partners
Managing director of law firm says more men than women covertly record partners

Increasing numbers of couples going through divorces are using surveillance equipment to spy on their spouses, lawyers have warned.

Maguire Family Law said one in five of the 400 people they support getting a divorce uses spying devices to snoop on their spouses.

The proportion of spouses using such technology has risen by 60 per cent in recent years - with the firm saying one in eight seeking a divorce spied on their partner a decade ago.

James Maguire, who is managing director of the law firm, told The Independent more men than women covertly record their partners.

He added: “I would often see that a man uses covert recordings to ‘prove’ something, like an affair, he is the wronged party or it is simply controlling and invasive.

“Women do record - sometimes for the same reasons - but the general thrust is to actually protect themselves, i.e. get evidence of violent or abusive behaviour.

He said the examples of spyware they encounter are just “the tip of the iceberg” as he warned “many more will go undetected.”

Mr Maguire, who has been a lawyer specialising in family law for 25 years, noted trust levels are at a “low point” when a relationship is breaking down and using surveillance equipment can compound this issue.

He added: “For the person who is feeling the need to record their partner, it can make fears or anxiety worse. If you look for something, you will find it.

“And then for the person who is being recorded, that sometimes can be a real shock to the system. Maybe their trust was at a reasonable level and it gets blown apart. This leads to more animosity. For both parties, the outcome is always negative.”

He said women have become more independent in terms of their career, personal finances and wider life in recent decades and some men have been unable to “accept” this.

“It seems to be a default position in some but not all men therefore that there must be an affair,” he added. “Spouses use tracking devices, dashes cams, and are putting spying software on mobile phones. Some are quite sophisticated.”

The lawyer said he thought the increasing numbers of people using recording equipment stems from technological advances. People previously discovered affairs by snooping on partner’s mobile phones but this is harder now due to many devices having passcodes, he added, which means partners may resort to spyware.

Another lawyer at the firm, who did not want to be named, added: “Many examples over three decades of husbands secretly recording what happens in the bedroom with their wife and then using it to blackmail them. Back then it was VHS or camcorders, but nowadays it’s much easier.”

Roger Bescoby, a director at a surveillance company called Conflict International, warned spyware is cheaper and more accessible than ever. He said people do not need to possess the skills of a former MI6 officer to use the equipment as he warned cars are “increasingly prime targets” for spyware.

He said: “In terms of where we’ve found devices, the list is endless. However, the more unusual ones include inside a cuddly toy, a model boat and even a box of cornflakes on a kitchen shelf.

“Covert recordings are not usually admissible in court including the divorce courts. There is a right to have a private life and a breach of that right can lead to prosecution.

“They can also give rise to issues of breach of confidence and possibly data protection. Therefore, a covert recording might not turn out to be the ‘smoking gun’ that the client thinks it is and worse still could open a ‘Pandora’s box’ of possible legal claims for breach of privacy.”

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