The High Court has issued a suspended jail sentence for contempt against a high-profile entrepreneur who owes London law firm Farrer & Co £200,000 in unpaid fees.
Mr Justice Kerr said Julie Marie Meyer – who back in 2009 appeared as a ‘Dragon’ in an online version of the BBC’s Dragon’s Den – had shown herself in the proceedings “to be a selfish and untrustworthy person”.
She needed to learn, he went on, that the court was “not to be trifled with”.
An American businesswoman now resident in Switzerland, Ms Meyer received an MBE in 2011 for services to entrepreneurship.
She instructed Farrer & Co in early 2018 but later that year the firm ceased to act. In November 2019, the firm sued for unpaid fees of £187,000 plus interest and obtained default judgment the following month.
In January 2020, the court issued a standard order under CPR 71, endorsed with penal notices, requiring Ms Meyer to attend in March to provide information about her means.
She did not comply and there have been various hearings since, including one in October 2021 that Ms Meyer attended remotely, at which Mrs Justice Heather Williams ordered that she provide various documents. This has also not been complied with.
In the latest ruling, Kerr J rejected Ms Meyer’s applications to set aside the default judgment and for more time to comply with Williams J’s order.
He went on to consider whether to make Ms Meyer subject to a suspended sanction for contempt of court for that non-compliance.
“I am satisfied that this is an appropriate case to exercise that jurisdiction,” he decided.
“The defendant has shown herself in these proceedings to be a selfish and untrustworthy person, her word counts for nothing if it suits her to break it, she shows indifference to the respect properly due to the court and to the financial and resource burdens to which she continues to subject the clamant and the court.
“It is necessary, in my judgment, to teach her that the court is not to be trifled with.”
A sentence of imprisonment was “appropriate and necessary because the breach is deliberate, cynical and continuing and because, on the evidence before me, I am satisfied there is every prospect that the defendant will continue to flout orders of the court unless coerced into obeying them”, the judge said.
“I will make an order holding the defendant in contempt and imposing on her a sentence of imprisonment for six months.”
Required by the CPR to suspend the sentence, the judge ordered full compliance with the disclosure requirements and for Ms Meyer to attend court in person.
Kerr J was sceptical of Ms Meyer’s claim to be medically unfit to attend this hearing in person due to conjunctivitis.
“The medical evidence, such as it is, supporting that is not adequate. It does not support the proposition that she is unfit to attend in person yet fit to attend remotely.”
He allowed her to attend remotely “with some hesitation”, adding that he was providing “ample time to arrange travel” for the next hearing.
Legal Futures understands that Ms Meyer did not attend the hearing, which was held last week, and that a warrant has been issued for her arrest.