The High Court in Arthur J. Gallagher Services (UK) Limited and others v Skriptchenkov and others [2016] EWHC 603, granted 11 February a mandatory injunction ordering the inspection and imaging of electronic devices and computers belonging to the defendants, and the subsequent destruction of any confidential information belonging to the claimant that was found. The decision was surprising in the absence of any previous authority where such deletion was permitted.

After his employment with Arthur J. Gallagher group (“Gallagher”) was terminated, Mr Skriptchenkov began working for Portsoken Limited (“Portsoken”). Gallagher brought a claim against Skriptchenkov and Portsoken after suspecting the wrongful use of its confidential information. Skriptchenkov had in fact taken a client list from Gallagher, and a lengthy disclosure exercise revealed its subsequent misuse by several of Portsoken’s directors and employees. The list was used to approach more than 300 of Gallagher’s clients. Although the defendants admitted misuse, they claimed that a further search of their devices in order to destroy confidential information was “invasive, unprecedented and unnecessary”.

Gallagher argued such interim relief was necessary to protect its confidential information, and provided several assurances: (i) the defendants’ IT expert, rather than Gallagher’s, was to carry out the order; (ii) if it was arguable that the material contained Gallagher’s confidential information, but the defendants maintained that it contained their confidential information, Gallagher need not be shown such material; (iii) if material was wrongly removed, copies of the images of the searched devices would be provided so that it could be restored.

Justice Slade granted the order on the basis of the aforementioned assurances, and that:

  • The defendants had already admitted to the misuse of Gallagher’s confidential information
  • The disclosure exercise revealed a “high degree of subterfuge” in the use of the confidential information
  • The defendants could not be trusted to delete the information themselves (based on the evidence provided)

This decision is the first of its kind and illustrates that in certain circumstances, the courts are prepared to use invasive methods to protect confidential information.