Sex offender given access to child’s data by law firm found in contempt

BLM: Error pre-dated firm’s acquisition by Clyde & Co

A convicted sex offender accidentally given access by a leading law firm to a vulnerable child’s confidential information has been found guilty of contempt for not complying with court orders to delete it.

Mrs Justice Steyn found Daryll Sturgess Taylor in contempt on the application of defendant firm BLM – now part of Clyde & Co – and its client, the chief constable of Kent Police.

Mr Taylor 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.

However, Steyn J heard that Mr Taylor did not comply with the order that Saini J issued 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’s “short response” to an initial email from BLM, the judge recorded, was: “Fuck off and die.” He replied similarly to other emails from the firm.

As a result, in January this year, BLM and Kent police obtained a second order from Saini J to give Mr Taylor another chance to comply. His response to the application had been: “Do not contact me again, and die in the most painful way possible you filthy parasite.”

BLM and Kent police made their application to hold him in contempt and the court had to issue a bench warrant for Mr Taylor’s arrest after he failed to appear at the directions hearing, having been told that he must.

Mr Taylor then did not appear at the full hearing but Steyn J decided to press ahead in his absence.

She found him in contempt for failing to comply with the requirement to swear and serve an affidavit outlining his dealings with the videos and for not attending Clyde & Co’s offices in April to allow for the expert to delete them from his devices.

However, she did not find that he definitely still had the videos in breach of the orders, rejecting a third ground of contempt.

Mr Taylor’s lack of co-operation did not mean he wanted to retain them, the judge explained. “It is apparent that he considered it outrageous that BLM was making demands of him, and threatening him with litigation, when he was not the party at fault for leaking confidential information.

“It is equally apparent that he considered the mandatory orders, compelling him to speak and to give access to his media and devices, was a violation of his rights.”

Even if he had deleted the videos – and there was a “real possibility” that he had – Steyn J said “the inference I draw is that… he would not have been prepared to inform the claimants or the court because he was resistant to being compelled to explain what he had done”.

This meant there was “no certainty” as to whether Mr Taylor still had the videos. While that was “deeply unsatisfactory”, it was not the test in addressing the allegation of contempt.

Steyn J adjourned the hearing in respect of penalty so as to give him the opportunity to consider the judgment and put forward any mitigation.

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