Jail for sex offender given access to child’s data by law firm’s error

BLM: Firm tried to be constructive

A convicted sex offender accidentally given access by a law firm to a vulnerable child’s confidential information has been jailed for six months for not complying with court orders to delete it.

Mrs Justice Collins Rice said that Daryll Sturgess Taylor “deliberately and, indeed, defiantly flouted the orders of the court” and only a custodial sentence would suffice.

Mrs Justice Steyn had found him in contempt last October on the application of defendant law firm BLM – now part of Clyde & Co – and its client, the chief constable of Kent Police.

However, it later transpired that his absence from the hearing was because he was in detention for a separate criminal offence. So Steyn J’s decision was set aside, leaving Collins Rice J to consider the matter afresh.

Mr Taylor had sued Kent police for £390 relating to damage alleged to have been done to his front door by police officers when they entered his property to search for child pornography. He was arrested and later convicted and imprisoned as a result.

In the course of the civil claim, BLM gave Mr Taylor access to the cloud-based Collaborate system for disclosure purposes.

An error allowed Mr Taylor to download video files of the arrests, searches and interviews of the vulnerable minor, who was suing the police in an unconnected matter. These contained sensitive confidential information about the child.

BLM and the chief constable successfully brought a claim in the law of confidence in March 2022 because Mr Taylor refused to delete, or to explain his dealings with, the videos. He had also asked for money to delete them.

He did not comply with two orders to restrain his use of the videos, explain his dealings with them and attend BLM’s offices so that an independent expert could delete them from his devices.

Mr Taylor told the court that he did not comply because he had been unable to obtain legal advice – “although he did not give me a clear or specific account of why not”, the judge said – and that he had been “outraged” by the mistake, meaning he did not trust the claimants “and had been angered and frustrated by their subsequent demands of him”.

Collins Rice J said she was satisfied that Mr Taylor had been given “an ample opportunity, and positive encouragement, to obtain legal advice and representation”, and that the claimants were “attempting to be constructive and helpful” in their dealings with him.

Instead, he maintained “an angry, confrontational and defiant position and simply refused” to comply.

The judge held he was in contempt and “deliberately and, indeed, defiantly flouted the orders of the court”.

In assessing harm, she bore in mind that it was not alleged that Mr Taylor breached the prohibition on accessing, disclosing or otherwise using the videos.

“But the harm that flows from Mr Taylor’s breaches of the mandatory orders, in addition to the harm to the administration of justice, is that the claimants have been unable to ascertain which devices or media he downloaded the police videos onto.

“They have been unable to verify whether they have been deleted or to ensure that they are permanently deleted. They have had to incur considerable costs and spend considerable time in their efforts to ensure the protection of a vulnerable minor’s confidential information.”

Only a custodial penalty would suffice, Collins Rice J said, deciding that six months was appropriate, to be added to the prison sentence he was currently serving for an unrelated matter.

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