The claimant, United Kingdom Independence Party Limited, was the limited company responsible for UKIP, the political party.
The first defendant, Mr Richard Braine, was the former Leader of UKIP. The second defendant, Mr Tony Sharp, was the former Deputy Leader. The third defendant, Mr Jeff Armstrong, was the party’s former General Secretary and Returning Officer. The fourth defendant, Mr Mark Dent, was a former UKIP member with IT skills. The fifth defendant was comprised of “persons unknown”.
On 17 September 2019, UKIP opened applications for elections to its National Executive Committee (NEC). A dispute subsequently arose over the third defendant’s conduct as Returning Officer. At the instigation of the Party Chair, Ms Kirstan Herriot, a majority of NEC members voted to remove the third defendant from his position. On 15 October the first defendant suspended Ms Herriot, and authorised the fourth defendant to visit UKIP HQ the following day, to block Ms Herriot’s access to the UKIP Chair email account, and scan that and other accounts for relevant evidence.
The fourth defendant visited UKIP HQ on the morning of 16 October. That night, an unknown individual emailed four NEC members, claiming to possess copies of their emails, and threatening to release them unless they resigned from the party. A week later, the claimant secured, without notice to the respondents, an interim order prohibiting the “use, publication, communication or disclosure” by the five defendants of “any information originating from or purported information concerning a data breach of” specified UKIP email addresses or accounts.
The claimant subsequently issued proceedings against the defendants for breach of directors’/fiduciary duties, breach of confidence, and conspiracy to injure by unlawful means. Ahead of the eventual return date on the injunction, the claimant filed an application notice asking the Court to uphold the interim non-disclosure order (INDO) until trial, and to order that the fourth defendant’s computer be seized and searched. The four individual defendants filed witness statements denying obtaining any information from UKIP’s servers and responsibility for the blackmail email, and provided reasons to believe that the email had come from another source.
Warby J heard the claimant’s two applications on 6 December 2019. The defendants resisted both, and applied for an order that the original INDO be discharged on the grounds of material non-disclosure, contending that the Judge had been positively misled as to the applicable law and facts.