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Is it illegal to read spouse's emails without permission

(14 Posts)
RedCardinal Wed 25-May-16 17:19:47

I know this isn't a good thing. Husband has been depressed this year and also says our marriage is over. A couple of things made me suspicious so I turned the computer on opened gmail and read some emails. No passwords required however I realise this is dangerous territory. Is it illegal? And yes my suspicions have been confirmed he has conversed with a couple of women and has told them our marriage is over before confirming this officially with me and has definitely cheated although not sure how far this has gone. However the patience and support I have given for his depression is definitely being tested to the limit.
Have I done a bad thing?

MissBattleaxe Wed 25-May-16 17:23:38

I don't think it's illegal.

RedCardinal Wed 25-May-16 19:42:29

So perhaps not illegal if it came to divorce proceedings; just underhand and invasion of trust and privacy by me.

BlueFolly Wed 25-May-16 21:44:47

It's not illegal.

BlueFolly Wed 25-May-16 21:47:40

Hang on, he cheated on you and you're fretting that you'll be the one seen as 'underhand' in the divorce? confused

If reading a cheating spouse's e mails were illegal then i think we'd have heard about it on here by now grin

Hassled Wed 25-May-16 21:48:22

I doubt it's illegal but that's not really the issue, is it? The fact he's depressed doesn't mean he's allowed to cheat. Forget about whether you've done a bad thing - you're not the one cheating.

228agreenend Wed 25-May-16 21:51:42

There's numerous threads on mn where posters have read their partners emails and texts and they're not all in jail.

I don't think it's illegal.

I opened post addressed to my dh earlier this evening and had no qualms about it.

goddessofsmallthings Wed 25-May-16 21:59:34

If the email account wasn't password protected and you didn't hack into it, you've haven't committed an illegal act in reading mail that wasn't sent direct to you.

I hope you thought to foward them to your email account or took some screen shots. smile

SandyY2K Wed 25-May-16 21:59:34

Not illegal but he would consider it an invasion of privacy. I suggest you forward the messages to yourself and remember to go to sent items and delete, then go to the trash folder and permanently delete.

Gather your evidence and you can show infidelity. One of the OW can support him with his depression.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Wed 25-May-16 22:01:04

No its not illegal. It's more complicated if you'd had to log in but as you didn't, you haven't done anything legally wrong yet.

RedCardinal Wed 25-May-16 22:34:42

Thanks everyone. I think I have seen enough of his emails for now and will try and speak to him directly rather than snooping!

Bolograph Thu 26-May-16 10:34:32

If the email account wasn't password protected and you didn't hack into it, you've haven't committed an illegal act in reading mail that wasn't sent direct to you.

It's highly unlikely a prosecution would ensue, any more than opening your partner's postal mail will result in a prosecution, but it's worth noting that the offence in the Computer Misuse Act has nothing to do with passwords and hacking.

An S.1(1) offence is made out if:

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if—
(a)he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer [F1, or to enable any such access to be secured] ;
(b)the access he intends to secure [F2, or to enable to be secured,] is unauthorised; and
(c)he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.

Reading someone else's email, even if you're sat in front of a computer they have left logged in, a least arguably meets that test. (a) is the act of clicking on links. (b) would be the stuff that gets argued about in court: does the act of living in a relationship provide implied consent, and does leaving devices lying around unprotected within a jointly-occupied house grant that authorisation? (c) would follow from (b).

The reason I pick this up is that if, say, you walked into your boss's office, noticed that her machine was logged in and flicked through her email, you would not only be inviting a bunch of contract and employment law issues as soon as you started reading, but that would be manifestly a CMA S.1(1) offence the moment you did anything which altered what was on the screen. The offence is in instructing the computer to do something you aren't authorised to do, and argument will be about whether you were authorised, not how you got access.

Complex analogies involving doors, welcome mats, keys and locks, trespass and theft, beloved of people wanting to complicate computer law, aren't necessary: CMA stands on its own, and all that's necessary to start a prosecution is to show that the acts meet the S.1(1) test.

As I say, the police and CPS are hardly going to be interested. But be careful once you get outside your house...

RedCardinal Thu 26-May-16 13:56:17

Bolograph wow sounds a bit scary, I understand what you are saying. Thanks.

Lweji Thu 26-May-16 14:03:51

So, the emails confirmed that he wanted to leave the marriage? How does that change things for you and what exactly are you going to talk to him about?
Does it matter if he cheated if he wants to leave?
The only benefit for me would be to get myself STD checked, but I think I'd have done it anyway if I only suspected.

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