Technology has moved on – but snooping has reached epidemic proportions.
The results of a study, carried out by Oxford University, are printed in today’s Daily Telegraph. Its authors claim that nearly a quarter of all married couples admit to snooping on one another’s emails and text messages.
Reading the article made me smile. How many times have my clients told me about a spouse, with a mobile phone clamped to his or her hand, behaving oddly? The answer is far too many to remember! So far as marital breakdown is concerned, such activities have become epidemic.
One client of mine became suspicious after her husband began sleeping with his mobile phone under his pillow. One night, when she could stand it no longer, she manoeuvred it from beneath his sleeping head, crept downstairs, read the text messages from his lover – and woke him demanding a divorce.
Other clients have told me how their spouses’ phones are now protected by permanent passwords. However, women are nothing if not inventive. Some can surreptitiously bypass the locking devices on mobiles, because they know that their spouses will use trusted passwords that are difficult to forget. For some reason, men often display a casual attitude to the deletion of text messages. In these cases, the clients have correctly guessed the passwords and accessed the phones.
One client bugged her husband’s car, correctly guessing that he would only speak to his lover once he had left the house. This proved to be the case. He also dialled his best friend – and the two of them bragged about their “bits on the side”. This little episode is likely to cost my client’s husband in the region of £10 million.
I have a number of well known sportsmen who are my clients. Without exception they are gorgeously hunky and rippling with muscles – especially the rugby players and the racing drivers! Sometimes we joke that our office becomes a little like the Diet Coke ad, with many of the women in the office – some of them prim and proper solicitors with their hair up, glasses on and dressed in sombre black – lining up to walk past the window in my office on their way to a photocopier!
However, brawn doesn’t always equal brains. One or two of my superstar clients have been caught out after they sent flirty text messages arranging illicit liaisons to their wives, instead of the intended recipients. They found themselves in the divorce courts.
Of course, it is illegal to access other people’s phones without consent. It is illegal to obtain an itemised bill for another person’s phone. Secret phone bugging is illegal; so is computer hacking. These actions can land someone with criminal charges. Whenever I am told about such behaviour, I always advise the client not to do it – or, if it has been done, to stop it immediately.
Human nature being what it is, they don’t always stop. Somebody who is going through marital breakdown, who feels a need to know if their spouse is having an affair, often does not care about the possible consequences. Many of those in this situation do not realise that in the majority of circumstances, the law does not require people to go to such lengths.