I always appreciate cases about disclosure which attract the attention of the mainstream press. They remind us all, including those with no present thought of litigation, of the duties which arise in relation to the preservation of documents and data.
I have written more than once about two such cases – the solicitor who told his clients to “burn” a messaging app, and the high-profile libel action between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney. Both reached their conclusions last week.
The “burn it” solicitor Raymond McKeeve was fined £25,000 following the action against him for criminal contempt. The judge said that he had considered a custodial sentence but a “more considered analysis” of a “spontaneous act of colossal stupidity” led him instead to impose a fine. McKeeve has also been ordered to pay £610,000 on account of costs. The judge said that he had in mind the deterrent effect of the shame and effect on a solicitor’s reputation.
A Legal Futures article City solicitor avoids jail after criminal contempt finding has more details.
Meanwhile, Rebekah Vardy has been ordered to pay 90% of Coleen Rooney’s costs, with £800,000 as an interim sum on account of the final figure. The judge took account of Vardy’s involvement in disclosure – it was “likely” that she had deliberately deleted relevant WhatsApp chat, and that her agent had acted deliberately in dropping her phone into the North Sea. The judge said that ‘Such behaviour is outside the ordinary and reasonable conduct of proceedings” leading her to “consider it appropriate to order the Claimant to pay costs on the indemnity basis.’
An article in the Law Society Gazette has more details.
You need no salutary messages from me to reinforce the lessons from these decisions.