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Search orders and supervising solicitors
On occasion, you may suspect that somebody is causing your business harm, but not be sure of the extent or nature of the problem, exactly who is involved and what they may have gained as a result.
Search orders are typically used in cases involving financial fraud. However, they can also be used where the issue centres on theft of information (such as a confidential database), a trade secret (such as a formula or blueprint documents) or other assets including intellectual property. The aim is to gather, protect and preserve both physical and electronic evidence prior to a court case.
A search order gives your solicitors authority to search the home, offices or other premises of a defendant, in order to collect and preserve evidence that will allow you to support a civil court case against them. The application needs to be made before the defendant suspects you are about to act against them so that there is no opportunity to conceal or destroy such evidence. Search orders can allow evidence to be taken from computer hard drives, email accounts, smart phones and other digital media so there is no hiding place.
No other legal approach allows you to gain entry to a defendant’s premises to carry out a search. Otherwise you would need to rely on their declaration during a court case that they have made full disclosure.
Obtaining a search order is non-trivial: your case will need to be strong and well presented. You will need to demonstrate that the defendant’s actions have, or will likely cause you significant loss and that documents held at the premises you seek to have searched will help to prove your case. You will also need to produce evidence of previous dishonesty by the defendant that gives you reason to think they will not disclose these documents. You will also need to prove that you can make good any damage caused to the defendant by the search, should the subsequent court case go against you.
A Supervising Solicitor is an independent solicitor who supervises the search to ensure that the court’s order is complied with (e.g. ensuring that only specified types of document are removed). They also serve the order on the defendant and advise them of their rights.
Our specialist disputes resolution lawyers offer a comprehensive service covering all aspects of this complex area of the law, both in seeking and enforcing search orders, acting as Supervising Solicitors and in dealing with situations involving large volumes of electronic data. We have a number of partners and solicitors with experience in this field so can provide a team to execute search orders at multiple locations simultaneously.
We provide practical guidance to ensure search orders are executed swiftly and as smoothly as possible and have considerable experience in defusing volatile situations arising from a raid. We deal as sensitively as possible with difficult situations where vulnerable individuals such as children or the elderly may be present.
Examples of our work:
Obtaining a search order and injunction for breach of confidentiality after it had been discovered that two former employees had taken portions of our client’s database with them to a new employer. We found the stolen database within minutes of starting the search.
Executing injunctions and search orders simultaneously at two premises in the Midlands on behalf of a multi-national company connected with the beverage industry that believed it had been the victim of a significant fraud. During the search, we recovered stolen property of our client worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Obtaining a search order for misuse of confidential information against six former employees and a former shareholder suspected of copying our client’s database and taking it to a new company.
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