Court orders must be obeyed!

Posted: 21st June 2019

Contract draftingThe credibility of the justice system depends on court orders being obeyed and those who fail, or drag their feet, in doing so can expect punishment. In one case, a pensioner received a prison sentence for deliberately obstructing execution of an order made in the an intellectual property case.

Manufacturers of electronic cigarettes launched trade mark infringement and passing off proceedings against the pensioner in connection with his ownership of an Internet domain. He was ordered by a judge to sign specified documents to enable the domain’s transfer to the manufacturers.

He did not comply with that order for almost three months, by which time the domain had been registered elsewhere, thus remaining beyond the manufacturers’ reach. The purpose of the order having been frustrated, the manufacturers applied to have him committed to prison for contempt of court.

In upholding the application, the Court found that the pensioner became aware of the order at least a month before he complied with it. That was soon after police officers attended his home with a view to arresting him. Thereafter, he deliberately delayed signing the documents, at one point appending his signature to the wrong ones in a false display of innocence and ignorance.

He was not a sophisticated man and may have been influenced by others. However, he did not act under pressure and his intentional delay in signing was a serious act of contempt, in that it thwarted the objectives of the order. Despite his advancing years and poor health – his ailments included advanced bladder cancer – the Court imposed a two-month custodial sentence.