In a commercial context, information is power and it can be a crushing disadvantage if confidential data finds its way into the wrong hands. However, as a High Court case showed, there are powerful steps that specialist lawyers can take to ensure that the privacy of your business and personal correspondence is respected.
The case concerned data that was alleged to have been illegitimately obtained from a businessman's email account by a former associate. The data had found its way into the possession of an individual – the defendant – with whom the businessman was engaged in a long-running financial dispute.
After proceedings were launched, a court order was obtained against the defendant requiring him to permit the businessman's solicitors to take an image of the data in his possession. He was also ordered, amongst other things, to explain the circumstances in which the data came into his hands and to provide copies of any correspondence or communications he had had with third parties concerning the data.
In subsequently making findings of contempt of court against him, the Court was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he had, in several respects, breached the order. He was aware of its terms and appreciated that what he was doing, or failing to do, might render him liable for contempt.
His professed belief in an alternative system of justice, under which he asserted that the order was null and void, seemed to the Court entirely irrelevant. The mental element required for a finding of contempt of court was therefore established. The Court would hear further argument as to what, if any, punishment to impose on the defendant. The maximum penalties for contempt are an unlimited fine or two years' imprisonment.