Brad Fox - Part 2
The 2020 Investigator of the Year, Brad Fox of Fox Investigation Services continues his story regarding the case of the long lost son and how the lack of understanding of GDPR meant that attempts to contact the subject were made even harder.
Brad: We found out that Paul was in prison and when Paul had served the sentence, his parents received notification that he was going to be released at 12 o'clock noon on a specific day. By this time the parents had separated and were living apart. The mother and her new partner travelled to H.M.P Pentonville on the day of his release arriving nice and early at 10 o'clock. They waited for Paul to come out but 12 o'clock came and went with no sign of him. As did one, two and three o'clock with still no sign of Paul. By the time four o'clock came, they made inquiries with the gate staff in the prison and they said that Paul had in fact been released at 7.30am that morning!
All throughout the prison visits, they had been saying to Paul, that they would be there to help him, that they would come and meet him from prison, take him home and get him the rehabilitation he clearly needed. But sadly, from Paul's perspective, he'd had all these promises from his parents and then when he came out of prison, there was nobody there.
It was a cold and snowy winter's day and he felt abandoned. So what could he do? From that point on he was never seen again, until I reunited them in September 2019.
Ironically what actually happened that day was not what his parents had been told at all. When Paul was first arrested, he had a very old phone in his possession that didn't work and which was put into his property. As he was being released from Pentonville at 12 o'clock (at the correct time) one of the prison officers noticed the phone in his pocket. The officer thought that Paul had been in possession of an illegal phone whilst in custody and arrested him for it. Paul protested his innocence explaining that the phone was dead and that it didn’t work but the officer didn’t believe him. Paul didn’t even have the charger for it and there was no SIM card. But the officer didn’t believe him and Paul spent an extra five hours in custody.
Just after 5 o'clock a senior prison officer confirmed Paul’s claims about the phone and he was finally released at 17.15hours. For all those years Paul’s parents believed that he had been released early when in actual fact, had they waited another hour they would have greeted him outside the prison gates as planned.
Greg: That’s so sad.
Brad: Another point is that Paul was an only child, which probably makes it harder to bear, worrying about him 24/7 every birthday, Christmas, etc.
Greg: Without going into any confidential details, how did you find him?
Brad: Initially what we did anytime that we weren't working on a large case, and we had a couple of spare hours, over a period of about 16 months I would make phone enquires and visits to an extensive list of charities, soup kitchens, refuge, drug rehabilitation centres etc. The difficulty we had when we approached these organisations and you say that you’re trying to trace somebody is that you get the standard replies relating to GDPR. I would tell them that we we're not asking for his personal information, should they hold any, because I understood what they could and couldn’t tell us. However, they could have taken his details which we provided for them, run a check to see if they were in contact with him and if they were, they could pass on our details to him saying that we wanted to get in touch to help him. A lot of these organisations just said no, they won’t do it.
Greg: Is that because of a lack of understanding of GDPR?
Brad: Yes. It's been interesting because since we found him, I've been looking at various websites specialising in missing people cases and there's definitely a common thread there. For example, I saw a case recently where a gentleman who’s been missing from Thamesmead in London after he walked out age just 20 years old many years ago. The case had some good leads and I looked at it and I thought, with a little bit of persistence, we could probably crack this case.
So I contacted Missing, explained who we were and what we do and asked if we could be put in touch with the subject’s sister. They said, no. I even contacted the missing persons unit at the local police station and had the same conversation. They said no. It's just bonkers. To consider that we’re offering to help find their missing relative, free of charge, which could potentially reunite a family after 25 years and they just weren't interested at all.
Brad Fox runs Fox Investigation Services Ltd based in Kent. You can access his website by clicking on the link: www.foxinvestigation.net