Employees beware! – 6 week jail sentence for employee who deleted confidential information

August 11, 2017

The recent decision of the High Court in London in the case of OCS Group v Dadi to impose a 6 week prison sentence on an ex employee is an alarming but salutary tale.

Background

Mr Dadi was an aircraft cleaning contractor employed by OCS at Heathrow Airport. In February 2017 his employment was transferred to a competitor, Omniserve, after OCS lost the contract.  OCS obtained an Interim Injunction against Mr Dadi:

  • Prohibiting him from disclosing confidential information to third parties;
  • Prohibiting him from destroying any evidence leading to the Order; and
  • Requiring him to disclose any items of confidential information that had been shared.

The Order was served on Mr Dadi by the OCS in house lawyer who impressed upon him the importance of the Order and read out the contents of the penal notice to him. She advised Mr Dadi that he should take legal advice. Before taking legal advice however and despite being warned that a breach of the Order could lead to a prison sentence, Mr Dadi deleted approximately 8,000 emails and tipped off others (including his manager) about the Injunction.

Once Mr Dadi had taken legal advice he immediately admitted breaching the Order and agreed to co-operate with OCS in trying to recover the deleted emails. However, given the passage of time it was not possible to retrieve any of the deleted emails.

Decision

OCS made an application to the High Court for Mr Dadi to be committed to prison for contempt of court. Mr Dadi raised several issues in mitigation (he did not benefit financially or otherwise, once he realised the seriousness he co-operated fully,  a prison sentence would be disastrous for his family in the Sikh community and also that he cared for his elderly mother who had several medical issues).  Mrs Justice Rose concluded that a short prison sentence had to be imposed to mark the Court’s strong disapproval of his conduct and to act as a deterrent both in respect of his further compliance with the Orders and as a warning to others who might be tempted to flout Court Orders.

Comment

The imposition of a prison sentence on an employee for breach of an injunction is a rare occurrence. This case serves as a reminder that injunctions should be taken very seriously by employees and ex employees.  It also proves that there is merit in employers seeking to enforce Injunctions and that money spent on legal costs will not be spent in vain.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Employment Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.