A High Court judge has given a man accused by Wimbledon officials of being a ‘ticket tout’ 14 days to use the legal aid granted to him to find solicitors to help him comply with a court order or be sent to prison.
Luke McKay was granted legal aid three weeks ago, shortly after Mr Justice Chamberlain, in All England Lawn Tennis Club Ltd and All England Lawn Tennis Ground Plc v Luke McKay, confirmed that a respondent to High Court committal proceedings alleging breach of an order was entitled to legal aid ‘as of right’. McKay previously told the court he had struggled to obtain legal aid despite contacting several firms.
At a hearing on 8 November, McKay confirmed he wished to be represented and was due to meet a solicitor from London firm Hodge Jones & Allen.
In a hearing today, His Honour Judge Freedman said he received an email from Hodge Jones & Allen dated 27 November stating that the firm met McKay to prepare a witness statement but would not be attending today.
McKay, who attended today’s hearing, told HHJ Freedman that the firm drafted a witness statement which he did not like and that he was going to write a letter to the judge.
However, HHJ Freedman said ‘this is not a situation where you start writing letters’. McKay was told he had ‘ample opportunity since 8 November to obtain legal advice. You went to see Hodge Jones & Allen. You’re apparently not happy with their advice but you have had every opportunity to see someone else. You have had three weeks. One appointment with a solicitor to put a statement together. That’s all it is.’
Noting that this was the third application to commit, HHJ Freedman said McKay was in contempt of court. ‘He made clear to me he is unwilling to comply in future with the order of court because he says he is not willing to identify a third party who was involved in ticket touting. He says he would rather go to prison than be a “grass”. That’s his choice.
‘But the order stands and he must obey it otherwise he will go to prison as I have made abundantly clear. I’m going to give him one final choice to purge his contempt. The sanction for contempt of court will be a prison sentence albeit that will be suspended.’
The claimants needed cooperation to stamp out ticket touting, the judge said. ‘Ticket touting is a detrimental activity not just for the claimants but other legitimate members of the public who want to go and watch the tennis but cannot get tickets because they are in the hands of ticket touts. It also causes financial loss to the claimants. They are a non-profit organisation. They have to jealously guard the process of ticket sales.’
HHJ Freedman said there would be a prison sentence of six months’ duration suspended for 14 days. ‘He [McKay] has the benefit of legal aid and can go to the solicitors and produce a witness statement… If he does not, the sentence of the court will be activated.’