A man who struggled to obtain legal aid in a case about the sale of Wimbledon tickets has escaped committal to prison pending a hearing at the Court of Appeal. Mr Justice Nicol made the decision after hearing an application by barristers acting pro bono to purge the contempt. 

The All England Lawn Tennis Club and All England Lawn Tennis Ground had applied to commit Luke McKay, who they claim is a ticket tout, to prison for contempt of court for allegedly breaching an interim injunction granted in July. McKay had been required to produce a witness statement.

Last month His Honour Judge Freedman ruled that McKay was in contempt. He imposed a six-month prison sentence but suspended it for 14 days to give McKay 'one final chance' to purge his contempt.

At Friday's hearing barristers Anton Van Dellen and Harry O’Sullivan, of Goldsmith Chambers, represented McKay pro bono. Van Dellen told the court that his client benefited from privilege against self-incrimination and, consequently, should not have been found in contempt. 

Van Dellen said: 'In order for the suspension to be lifted... you need to be satisfied privilege against self-incrimination does not apply.'

Hardwicke Chambers’ Charles Raffin, for the All England Lawn Tennis Club and All England Lawn Tennis Ground, submitted: 'None of this avails Luke McKay. He has already been found to be in contempt of court… The question is, "has he complied"? The answer is "no".'

Van Dellen told the Gazette that an appeal application was lodged shortly before Mr Justice Nicol lifted the suspended committal but stayed imprisonment pending the Court of Appeal hearing.

Although the case centres on the sale of Wimbledon tickets, it also became about the scope of legal aid when Mr Justice Chamberlain, who heard the case in October and November, decided to clear up confusion over who has the power to grant public funding for committal proceedings arising from civil conduct.