A ticketing company director has avoided prison over the sale of Wimbledon tickets - but has been warned by a High Court judge not to think he has been given an 'easy option' because his sentence is suspended.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (Championships) Ltd and All England Lawn Tennis Ground Plc applied to commit Muhammad Junaid Muaawiya to prison for breaching the terms of a consent order made in June 2017. The application was heard in the High Court on Wednesday.
The court heard that, in 2016, proceedings were brought against Muaawiya and three other defendants in respect of dealing in non-transferable Wimbledon tickets. Muaawiya abided by the terms of the consent order for the 2017 and 2018 championships. In 2019, Wimbledon officials discovered that some people attended the championships using non-transferable tickets. An investigation found that the individual involved in the sale of the tickets was associated with Muaawiya's address. Muaawiya was informed in August that a committal application would be made.
Her Honour Judge Walden-Smith said: 'The second part of the mitigation in [Muaawiya's] affidavit was that it was a time when it was particularly busy for sporting events. It is well known that on the date of the Wimbledon championship final, the men's final, the England one-day cricket team were also battling to win the Cricket World Cup... It's fair to say, given the business being run by Muaawiya, it's part of that business that he would wish to be busy and a necessity given the injunction to ensure everyone working for him did not deal with non-transferable tickets.'
In his affidavit, Muaawiya apologised for the breach and accepted responsibility. HHJ Walden-Smith said: 'The fact he does acknowledge the breach and need to comply with the injunction going forward are matters of mitigation. However, it's tempered by the fact it is late in the day, only two days before the hearing. In my mind these are breaches with serious consequences.'
Muaawiya was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.
HHJ Walden-Smith told Muaawiya: 'This sentence of imprisonment is suspended, it's still a sentence of imprisonment. If you were to breach the terms of the injunction then you no doubt will be brought back to court and a further application will be made to commit you to prison. On that occasion, the court is highly likely, that it being a further breach of the injunction, you will be sent to prison immediately... You must not think that having a suspended sentence is in any way an easy option. It's a serious matter.'
Hardwicke's Edward Rowntree, for the claimants, told the court that £10,000 costs had been agreed by the parties. For Muaawiya, 9 Bedford Row's David Hughes, said: 'It's an offer that's made and an offer to be kept.'
Counsel for the All England Lawn Tennis Association and Lawn Tennis Ground will shortly return to the Royal Courts of Justice to attend the next hearing in a long-running case that highlighted confusion over legal aid entitlement in committal proceedings.