Pendragon Plc v Person(s) Unknown
Reference:  EWHC 2985 (KB)
Court: King’s Bench Division, Media and Communications List
Judge: Collins Rice J
Date of judgment: 24 Nov 2022
Summary: Breach of Confidence – Blackmail – Injunction Against Person(s) Unknown – Application for continuation of interim injunction on return date – Default judgment – Derogations from Open Justice
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Adam Speker KC (Claimant)
Ben Hamer (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: DAC Beachcroft for the Claimant
The Claimant is a UK automotive retailer that operates over 160 sites across the UK under the brands of Evans Halshaw, Stratstone and CarStore. The Defendant(s) are one or more unknown individual(s) who gained unauthorised access to the Claimant’s IT systems and took a large number of its confidential electronic documents. The Defendant(s) then threatened to publicise the information, including on the dark web, unless a ransom was paid.
The Claimant applied for an interim injunction without notice to the Defendant and with derogations from open justice before Bourne J on 21 October 2022. Bourne J granted the interim injunction and allowed alternative service via the Defendant’s/Defendants’ website, and also required the Defendant(s) to identify themselves and to deliver up and/or delete the information. The Defendant(s) failed to comply and were in breach of the order.
1. Should the application be dealt with on the papers?
2. Should default judgment be granted?
1. It was appropriate for the application to be dealt with on the papers, following the reasoning in Clarkson Plc v Person(s) Unknown  EWHC 417 (QB).
2. In the circumstances the Claimant was entitled to default judgment on its statement of case, following the guidance in Glenn v Kline  EWHC 3182 (QB). The particulars of claim set out all of the elements required for breach of confidence. The Defendant(s) did not file an acknowledgement of service or a Defence within 14 days of the deemed date of service as required by CPR 10.3(1)(a). The Defendant(s) had not indicated they were outside the jurisdiction but even if it were, the time limits for filing acknowledgement of service for most countries under the table in Practice Direction 6B had expired. The entitlement to injunctive relief was irresistible and a permanent injunction was granted.