Ticket tout handed suspended sentence for failing to comply with court order

George Bentall

In All England Lawn Tennis Club (Championship) Ltd v Miller [2017] (unreported) a Wimbledon ticket tout was given a suspended sentence of four months’ imprisonment for failing to comply with an order which required him to provide information regarding the ticket touting transactions he was involved in. 

Facts

The applicant was the organiser of the Wimbledon tennis championship and the respondent was a ticket tout. The applicant had identified two transactions involving the respondent and issued a claim, seeking an interim injunction, an inquiry as to damages and an account of profits made. An order was made containing a penal notice prohibiting the respondent from trading non-transferable tickets. The respondent was ordered to deliver up any non-transferable tickets in their control and to take steps to terminate any agreement with any third party for any sale. The order also required the respondent to serve a signed witness statement within 48 hours of the date of service, providing information relating to the ticket transactions.

The respondent did not comply with the order, despite the breach being repeatedly brought to their attention. The applicant applied to commit the respondent for contempt for breach of the order. The court gave the respondent an opportunity to avoid contempt by complying with the order and granted a short adjournment to enable him to provide an affidavit. The respondent gave evidence and was cross-examined. The applicant applied for the injunction to be made final.

Held

The respondent admitted contempt at the first opportunity and was entitled to credit for that. The respondent struggled with written and spoken English and the legal language of the order was not straightforward to follow. This, however, did not excuse his conduct. The respondent said he thought the essence of the order was to forbid him from the geographical area of the championship and to stop ticket touting, but admitted that in retrospect a lot more was required. As the respondent was of full age and capacity, it was down to him to obtain advice as to what was required to comply with the order. The court concluded the respondent was and continued to be in flagrant and deliberate breach of the order. The penal notice in the order was in bold capital letters stating that if breached the respondent could be held in contempt and imprisoned.

The respondent was sentenced to four months imprisonment suspended for two years and had a continuing obligation to comply with the order. The order was varied requiring the respondent to comply within 14 days or the suspended sentence would be activated and the term possibly increased.  The application was granted and the original order made final subject to those variations.

Comment

This case shows the remedies available to event organisers faced with ticket touts. It also serves as a reminder for anyone served with an injunction order to take appropriate advice so that they fully understand the terms of the order and the implications of continuing to act in breach.  A penal notice on an injunction order imposes a strict duty to comply with all terms of an order or face severe consequences including committal proceedings for contempt under CPR Part 81.

All England Lawn Tennis Club (Championship) Ltd v Miller [2017] (unreported)

Post By George Bentall (2 Posts)

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