A fee earner who sent confidential information to his personal email address days before leaving his firm has been given an ultimatum to show the material had been deleted in compliance with a court order. 

In Bond Turner v MaginnHis Honour Judge Stephen Davies gave Patrick Maginn 28 days to explain what he did with the emails sent from his work address and to show nothing was forwarded to his new firm.

If Maginn did not comply with this condition, the judge said, his previous firm could apply to the court for a warrant of committal.

Maginn had joined listed claims firm Bond Turner in June last year and was responsible for a caseload of around 100 housing disrepair claims. He left the firm in November and took up employment with a competitor in the housing disrepair market, McDermott Smith Law Limited.

Bond Turner subsequently discovered that in the days before leaving, Maginn sent 50 blank emails with attachments to his personal email account. These emails contained ‘a significant amount of its confidential and proprietary information’, the court heard.

Most documents sent to his personal email address were sent on to his new email account with McDermott Smith and he had used some of those on six newly-opened files.

The judge said there was no evidence either way whether Maginn had used the relevant documents in any other way, and the practice ceased when it was discovered what had happened. The two firms have settled their own legal dispute.

In February, His Honour Judge Pearce ordered that Bond Turner could serve a committal application on Maginn. This contained a penal notice which required positive steps about what to do with the emails and advising him to consult a solicitor. He was required to hand over any property or documents belonging to Bond Turner which were in his possession or control.

In the latest ruling, Davies found that Maginn had made no attempt to comply with any of these orders. The evidence showed, he added, that Maginn had been taking steps to ensure he was not personally served with the order.

The judge found allegations of contempt proved, adding: ‘It is clear what the order required him to do. It is also clear that he has not done so. There is no basis whatsoever for any conclusion that he was unable to do so, instead it is clear is that he could have done so and that he has not done so and that no reason has been advanced by him or otherwise is suggested, even as a realistic possibility on the evidence before the court, that he was unable to do so.’

The judge sentenced Maginn to four months’ imprisonment suspended for six months, on condition that he does exactly what he was required to do under the order.