A London father and his partner allegedly sewed listening devices on his daughter’s clothes to eavesdrop on the child’s private meetings with a social worker, reported The Guardian on May 23.
The invasion of privacy was revealed to Justice Peter Jackson during a family residence dispute.
The girl, who is said to be in the “later stages of primary school” had no idea she was being listened to all along.
Justice Jackson was asked to decide whether the girl, who had been living with her father and his partner, should continue to live with them or reside with her mother.
The judge ultimately decided the girl should move in with her mother, but said the dispute was “bad enough” that local authorities needed to get involved and for the judge to appoint a guardian to represent the girl’s interests.
“The proceedings ran for 18 months and during that time there were a number of meetings between [the girl] and her social worker, a family support worker, and the guardian,” said the judge, according to The Guardian.
“Unfortunately, the father and his [new] partner were determined to know what the child was saying at these meetings and also to record what the professionals were saying,” he added.
At least four recording bugs were used. The father then transcribed some of the audio, which totaled over 100 pages.
The judge said the father had recorded his daughter’s conversations from 2104 to 2016, the proceeding had been going on for over a year before the recordings were discovered.
“At least two of these were small recording devices, bluntly, bugs—the one I was shown was no larger than 3cm x 1.5cm and can be bought on the internet for a few pounds,” said Justice Jackson.
The judge said the bugs were bought by the father’s partner and that she had sewed them into the girl’s blazer.
“On some occasions a second bug was sewn into [her] school raincoat and used at the same time to maximize the chance of picking up conversations … The bug would therefore be running all day, recording everything,” said the judge, according to The Guardian.
“[The girl] was therefore recorded at school, when with her teachers and friends, and at the contact centre when she went to meet her mother or speak to her on FaceTime,” he continued.
“Recordings were also made at home, when the social workers and guardian visited. At the end of the day, the bug would be removed from the clothing so the contents could be downloaded,” added Justice Jackson.
On other occasions, when professionals were visiting the residence, the child’s father or partner would leave an iPad or iPhone on top of a handbag in the room where the conversation would most likely take place in order to record discussions.
The judge said he allowed the girl to live with her mother because the father and his partner could not meet her emotional needs as main caretakers.
“The recording program was not the only indicator of this, but it was a prominent one. The mother was entitled to say that she objected to her daughter being brought up by someone who sewed recording devices into her clothing, something she described as ‘really disturbing,'” said Justice Jackson, according to The Guardian.
He concluded by saying the audio had not produced “a single piece of useful information” and had damaged relationships between the girl and the adults in her life.