Prison for employee for deleting evidence
Former employee sent to prison for deleting evidence in breach of court order
In OCS Group UK Ltd (“OCS”) v Dadi and others, a former employee of the claimant was committed to prison for six weeks for breaching an injunction to preserve evidence pending trial of an action against Dadi for breach of confidence.
Mr Dadi had worked for OCS. OSC lost a contract to one of its competitors – OmniServ. Mr Dadi was transferred to OmniServ under TUPE. Before the TUPE transfer, OCS brought a claim against Mr Dadi on the basis that Mr Dadi had conspired with one of the other defendants, Mr Ahitan, by emailing confidential information belonging to OCS to his personal email account over a period of time. Mr Ahitan worked for OmniServ but previously worked for OCS as Mr Dadi’s manager.
OCS obtained an injunction against Mr Dadi which prohibited him from disclosing or making use of any of OCS’s confidential information, required him to provide information to the court about what discourse he had made of that information, required him to preserve hard copy and electronic documents, and, prohibited him from disclosing to anyone else (except his legal representatives) the existence of the order or the possibility of proceedings being commenced.
The standard notice on the front page explained that breach of the order would be a contempt of court which could result in imprisonment.
OCS’s lawyer personally served the order and read out the notice. Immediately following this, Mr Dadi telephoned Mr Ahitan and informed him of the injunction. He also deleted several emails from his personal email account. The following day, Mr Dadi deleted a further 8,000 emails and told various family members about the injunction.
OCS applied for Mr Dadi to be committed to prison for contempt of court.
Mr Dadi was sentenced to six weeks in prison for contempt. The court emphasised their strong disapproval of his conduct and imposed the prison sentence also to act as a deterrent. The court took into account that the acts were “deliberate and contumacious breaches”.
The breaches had significantly prejudiced OCS and cost them considerably in forensic examination to salvage information that should have been left untouched.
It is not unusual to see a sentence such as this for breach of an injunction but it is not often these powers are being used in an employment context. This case highlights the importance of complying strictly with injunctions aimed at preserving evidence. The court will have little sympathy with pleas of naïveté especially if an employee goes to great lengths to cover their tracks. The notice on the front of the order is there for a reason.
IMPORTANT: This blog is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.