Confidential Information. Committal Application following Injunction

In Soil Instruments Ltd v Mr Robert King Mason, His Honour Judge Bird, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court, considered whether Mr King Mason should be committed to prison for alleged breaches of an Order made by Mrs Justice May on 26th July 2017, concerning the use of confidential information under a restrictive covenant.

There were six alleged breaches in the committal application which ranged from Mr King Mason downloading 38,000 files of data held on a hard drive and USB stick, to confidential information in emails .The breaches also involved the use of LinkedIn as a marketing device, which had not been disclosed by Mr King Mason and other drives which had also been retained. There was also an alleged failure to disclose some information provided regarding price lists and discounts and an alleged failure to provide an affidavit in response to the terms of the Order of Mrs Justice May.

Mr King Mason was cross examined by counsel for the Claimant on the alleged breaches, some of which he admitted, but a decision was taken not to cross examine the two witnesses from Mischon de Reya, who served the committal application.

Following the service of the Order of Mrs Justice May on Mr King Mason on 27th  July 2017, at his place of work, three days later, on 31st July 2017, Mr King Mason attempted suicide at Beachy Head and was sectioned for a short time.

There was a delay of almost five months in serving the committal application on 12th January 2018.

Submissions were made on behalf of Mr King Mason in respect of intent, proportionality, technical breach and abuse of process. PJSC Vseukrainskyi Aktsionernyi Bank v Maksimov [2014] EWHC 3771 (Comm), PJSC Vseukrainskyi Aktsionernyi Bank v Maksimov [2014] EWHC 4370 (Comm) and Sectorquard PLC v Dienne PLC [2009] EWHC 2693 (Ch).

His Honour Judge Bird found that there had been the breaches alleged, except he did not agree that failure to disclose emails not used for work purposes, was a deliberate breach. In mitigation, counsel for Mr King Mason stated that he had admitted some of the breaches, that the court’s time had not been wasted by cross examining the two solicitors from Mishcon de Reya, that there had been a considerable delay in issuing the committal application which should have been issued within 14 days, that the period of the restrictive covenant of six months had expired, that Mr King Mason had apologised both to the Court and to the Claimants and that following service of the Order on 27th July 2017, that Mr King Mason ,who had no previous history of any mental health issues, had been thrown into such a state of anxiety that he simply could not think clearly and although the terms of the Order had been explained to him by solicitors from Mishcon de Reya, he simply did not know what he was doing at this time, and this culminated in the suicide attempt at Beachy Head.

His Honour Judge Bird had found that the breaches were both serious and deliberate, but in view of the mitigation put forward on his behalf, he decided not to impose any penalty on Mr King Mason, but ordered that he should pay the Claimant’s solicitor’s costs on an indemnity basis.

Leslie Millin , instructed by CNG Law, represented Mr King Mason.

9th March 2018