By Ashleigh Swan
Pic credit: Rudi Winter
The co-founder of an accountancy firm in Glasgow has detailed how a former employee allegedly obtained client data without permission.
Susan Nicolson, 56, told the city’s Sheriff Court that the information that Liam McCreath allegedly took included clients national insurance numbers, bank account details and payroll information.
McCreath, 33, is charged with obtaining client’s data at Nicolson Accountancy Firm in 2020.
Mrs Nicholson told the court that on September 15 2020, she received an email from McCreath saying that he was ill and was unable to work during that day.
However, Mrs. Nicholson stated her husband and co-founder of the firm, Angus Nicolson, noticed McCreath had allegedly been accessing unusual information such as tax spreadsheets at 6am that morning.
Mr. Nicolson allegedly told his wife that nothing that McCreath had searched was worked on, however it did “concern” him.
The court heard as a result, the Nicholsons shut down Liam’s remote access, meaning that Mr. McCreath could not access data files from home.
When asked by prosecutor Redmond Harris on why McCreath was blocked from remote access, Mrs. Nicolson responded by saying it was for, “damage limitation, protecting company assets and client data.”
Mrs. Nicolson also told the court that she and her husband had seen a Facebook page about a new accountancy firm that McCreath had started and therefore had a feeling that Mr. McCreath’s intentions weren’t so good.
“We felt that we had been lied to,” Mrs. Nicolson told the court.
Mr Harris then asked Mrs. Nicolson to detail what type of information McCreath was able see that morning.
“Everything to do with the clients” Mrs. Nicholson said.
Mrs. Nicolson told Mr. Harris that that he would have been able to see bank account details, payroll information, full names, home address, national insurance numbers and pay rates.
The court then heard that a further email exchange occurred between Mrs. Nicolson and McCreath.
Mr. McCreath had allegedly emailed Mrs. Nicolson saying that he had to leave the firm due to sickness, mental health issues and lack of sleep.
Mrs. Nicolson told the court that she responded advising McCreath to take the week off and a discussion could take place on the following Monday about how he was feeling.
Mr Harris then asked Mrs. Nicolson, if anything had caused greater concern for the firm since receiving McCreath’s laptop.
Mrs. Nicolson responded by saying that she had diverted Liam’s inbox to her email and received, on a regular basis, many emails from companies.
Mrs. Nicolson said that reading those emails, “cemented her concerns.”
Later that Saturday evening, McCreath had allegedly sent another email to Mrs. Nicolson saying that he was quitting and that his company car and laptop had been dropped off at the office.
Mrs. Nicolson then told the court that the firm had sent McCreath’s laptop for examination by a third party IT company.
When the report came back, she said it confirmed the concerns that she and her husband had had about McCreath.
Mrs. Nicolson stated that McCreath had allegedly taken 800 documents.
The court then heard that a deal had made been with the solicitors that McCreath had to return all the information to the firm.
Mrs. Nicolson told the court it took three attempts before, all documents were returned, the last file to return was a payroll file.
When asked by Mr. Harris why she thought that file took so long to be returned, Mrs. Nicolson said that the file would have allegedly helped McCreath have a head start with his new accountancy firm as it held client data that is needed to send to HMRC.
Liam McCreath denies all the charges against him.
The trial continues later this month before Sheriff Valerie Mays.