With the advent of modern technology, it can be easy for employees to take confidential information from their existing employer with a view to using or disclosing it for the benefit of themselves or a new employer.

A recent High Court case serves as a warning to such employees as the employee was imprisoned for 6 weeks for breaching an injunction obtained by his former employer in such circumstances.

Mr Dadi was an employee of an aviation cleaning company. He was accused of emailing confidential information, belonging to his employer, to his private email account. His employer successfully applied for an interim injunction. The injunction was served on Mr Dadi so he became aware of the content.

The order prevented him from destroying any evidence, from disclosing the confidential information to others, required him to state who he had passed such information on to already and prevented him from notifying others that injunction proceedings had been taken against him or that proceedings may be taken against others. Others included a competing business who was tendering for the same contracts as the old employer. Attached to the injunction was a penal notice. This made clear that any breach of the order could result in the individual being imprisoned, fined or have his assets seized.

Having received the order, Mr Dadi panicked. He informed the person he had supplied the confidential information to about the order. He also notified his family and friends before deleting various items from his phone and around 8,000 emails from his account. 3 days later he took legal advice. Having been notified of the gravity of his actions, he then sought to co-operate and ‘coughed’ to everything he had done. He unsuccessfully attempted to retrieve the deleted items. Despite his own ill health, the fact his mother, wife and children were dependent on him and his remorse was considered genuine, he was sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment and now has a criminal record.

In deciding the penalty to impose, the courts considered whether the company bringing the claim had been prejudiced, whether the individual was placed under pressure to breach the order, whether the breach was deliberate or unintentional, the degree of culpability, whether the breach was due to the conduct of others, whether the individual appreciated the severity of the breach and whether they had co-operated.

The case of OCS Group UK v Dadi highlights the importance of complying with court orders. Penal notices are frequently attached to injunctions and the maximum sentence for breach of a penal notice is 2 years. Employers’ may wish to write to employees shortly after they resign to remind them of the obligations they remain bound by under the terms of their contract, to emphasise the potential repercussions of not doing so and to set out the ultimate sanction of failing to comply with any court order granted, to ensure their confidential information remains confidential.

For further information relating to the points raised in this article, please contact Angela Gorton or a member of the Employment Team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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