RBS demands committal for stalking ‘whistleblower’
The enforcement measure: committal for failure to comply with a judicial order is intended to put pressure on a sentenced person to comply with orders and prohibitions that have been imposed on this person. This is a drastic measure because a person’s personal freedom is taken away – outside criminal law. This can only be imposed if other coercive measures (such as a penalties) fail. Dutch media lawyer Thomas van Vugt discusses a recent ruling in which committal for failure to comply with a judicial order was imposed to enforce a prohibition of slander.
Action in preliminary relief proceedings for libel and slander
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has been bothered by a stalker, who not only places all sorts of accusations on Facebook and Twitter but also, with a frequency of no less than eight e-mails a day, harasses RBS employees. In preliminary relief proceedings instituted by RBS in 2012, the respondent was prohibited from contacting RBS employees in whatever manner and from spreading slanderous messages on the internet and Twitter. Violating these prohibitions was punishable by a penalty of €500 with a maximum of €50,000.
Penalty not enough incentive to comply with the order
After the ruling, the respondent did not stop his messages and e-mails to RBS. He soon owed the maximum in penalties but no recovery was possible at all. It was found that he had no income or assets. The respondent meanwhile continued his crusade unchecked.
Request to impose committal for failure to comply with a judicial order
The Court in Preliminary Relief Proceedings then ruled in new preliminary relief proceedings that the prohibitions would be enforced with a committal for failure to comply with a judicial order. This means that every time the respondent violates the ruling of 2012, he can be detained for a period of 2 weeks each time with a maximum period of 4 months. This threat of committal seemed to be effective: the respondent complied with the ruling for the entire year. However, immediately after this year expired, the respondent resumed his slanderous practices. RBS therefore recently went to the Court in Preliminary Relief Proceedings for the third time and again requested the orders to be enforced with committal, but this time for an indefinite time.
Interests RBS justify committal for failure to comply with a judicial order
In this preliminary relief ruling the Court finds, first of all, that judicial orders have to be complied with. It is a fact that the respondent repeatedly violated the ruling of 2012. He is not expected to cease his activities without the incentive of committal. The RBS has a substantial interest in not again being approached by the respondent and not being exposed to accusations of fraud. In view of this substantial interest and because penalties do not work and committal – obviously – does, the court finds that enforcing the prohibitions with committal is justified. However, the court does not find that a rigorous remedy such as committal should be applied indefinitely and therefore sets the term at 5 years.