Coll v Floreat Merchant Banking Ltd and Others: QBD 3 Jun 2014

The court was asked whether it was possible to bring contempt proceedings against a solicitor for the breach of an undertaking other than one given to the court. The parties had been employee and employer. On the breakdown of that relationship, the employer took possession of a computer used by the employee. They disputed ownership. The applicant sought undertakings to protect the privacy of the computer, but it had already been despatched for an image to be taken of the hard drive. Undertakings were offered, but not accepted and no re-assurance had been given that the computer had not already been accessed. The image arrived and was inspect by the solicitor and showed files and information wrongly diverted by the employee. After assorted court orders, the claimant now sought to have the solicitors added so that contempt proceedings could be brought.
Held: The request failed. The question of whether the court has jurisdiction to commit for a breach of solicitor’s undertaking other than one made to the court has never been determined.
Hickinbottom J derived several principles, but in the light of the other procedures available regulating a solicitor’s conduct, and the difficulties inherent in such applications, any such intervention would have to be very rare: ‘Given the other procedures available, in my judgment, there will generally be no compelling reason for seeking to commit a solicitor in these circumstances. One can never say ‘never’; but, as presently advised, I cannot conceive of circumstances in which immediate committal proceedings would be appropriate.’

Hickinbottom J
[2014] EWHC 1741 (QB)
England and Wales
CitedEx parte Cobeldick CA 1883
The disciplinary jurisdiction of the High Court over solicitors includes the power to strike a solicitor off the Roll, to order him to deliver up money or documents received by him as a solicitor.
Bowen LJ said: ‘All that has been shewn has . .
CitedRe Gray v Coles 1891
North J said that there should be a special retainer to defend a suit as well as to institute it. There is power for the court to make an order setting aside an appearance the entry of which has not been authorised.
the court, having a . .
CitedUnited Mining and Finance Corporation Ltd v Becher 1910
Becher (a solicitor) received andpound;2,000 from a party with whom his Russian client was negotiating, on his undertaking that, if the negotiations were unsuccessful, he would pay it back. The negotiations were unsuccessful, but Becher would not . .
CitedMyers v Elman HL 1939
The solicitor had successfully appealed against an order for a contribution to the other party’s legal costs, after his clerk had filed statements in court which he knew to be misleading. The solicitor’s appeal had been successful.
Held: The . .
CitedGeoffrey Silver and Drake v Baines (trading as Wetherfield Baines and Baines) (a firm) CA 1971
The court’s summary jurisdiction over solicitors is extraordinary, and therefore should only be exercised sparingly (i) if justice requires this procedure to be adopted, as opposed to some other procedure.
There is a recognised jurisdiction to . .
CitedR and T Thew Ltd v Reeves (No 2) CA 2-Jan-1982
The remedy of an award of costs against a solicitor personally is only available to make good loss where the solicitor is guilty of inexcusable misconduct such as to merit reproof.
It is not always easy to separate the effect of a disciplinary . .
CitedUdall v Capri Lighting Ltd (in liquidation) CA 1987
A claim was made for the price of goods sold and delivered. The defendant’s solicitor gave an oral undertaking to his counterpart to procure the execution by directors of his client company of charges over their homes in return for an adjournment . .
CitedUnited Bank of Kuwait Ltd v Hammond and Others CA 1988
It will only be in the ordinary course of business of the firm for a solicitor to do an act where there was an underlying transaction of a kind which was part of the usual business of a solicitor. ‘On the facts represented to the [third party] would . .
CitedBishlawi v Minrealm Limited ChD 2007
Contempt can take a wide variety of forms, including disobedience of court judgments and orders, which for these purposes includes an undertaking to the court which, it is well-established, is equivalent to an injunction and can be enforced by . .
CitedIn Re A Solicitor 1966
A solicitor (Mr Lincoln) had given undertakings to hold certain leases to the order of the Bank, but did not have them. The court considered enforcement of the undertakings. Pennycuick J said: ‘Prima facie, it is open to Mr Lincoln to obtain that . .
CitedIn Re A Solicitor 1966
A solicitor (Mr Lincoln) had given undertakings to hold certain leases to the order of the Bank, but did not have them. The court considered enforcement of the undertakings. Pennycuick J said: ‘Prima facie, it is open to Mr Lincoln to obtain that . .
CitedRegina v Rimmington; Regina v Goldstein HL 21-Jul-2005
Common Law – Public Nuisance – Extent
The House considered the elements of the common law offence of public nuisance. One defendant faced accusations of having sent racially offensive materials to individuals. The second was accused of sending an envelope including salt to a friend as a . .
CitedRegina v Jones (Margaret), Regina v Milling and others HL 29-Mar-2006
Domestic Offence requires Domestic Defence
Each defendant sought to raise by way of defence of their otherwise criminal actions, the fact that they were attempting to prevent the commission by the government of the crime of waging an aggressive war in Iraq, and that their acts were . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions, Contempt of Court

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.526122