Ocado Group Plc v Raymond McKeeve  EWHC 2079 (Ch)
On 3 August 2022, Mr Justice Adam Johnson held that Raymond McKeeve – a leading private equity lawyer – was guilty of criminal contempt of court. By destroying documents in response to a Search Order and thwarting the purpose of that order, Mr McKeeve intentionally interfered with the administration of justice.
The facts of this case are extraordinary and unprecedented. In July 2019, Ocado brought a claim against a former manager of Ocado, Mr Faiman, and his business Today Development Partners (“TDP”), alleging a conspiracy to misuse Ocado’s confidential information. On 3 July 2019, Ocado obtained a Search Order against them.
On 4 July 2019, Mr McKeeve, then a partner at a leading law firm, was notified that Ocado had obtained a Search Order against his client and friend, Mr Faiman. Mr McKeeve’s immediate reaction was to contact the IT technician at TDP and instruct him to “burn it”. Mr McKeeve then rang the IT technician to repeat this instruction orally. As a result, a covert messaging application called “3CX”, which had been used by the alleged conspirators, was irretrievably deleted, and the messages on it were not handed over during the execution of the Search Order.
Following a 6-day trial in June to July 2022, Mr Justice Adam Johnson found that Mr McKeeve’s actions on 4 July 2019 constituted criminal contempt of court. Mr McKeeve knew the purpose of the Search Order, and he intentionally took steps to thwart that purpose.
Mr Justice Adam Johnson concluded (beyond reasonable doubt):
A hearing to determine consequential matters, including Mr McKeeve’s sentence, will take place on 4 October 2022.