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YouTuber who persistently breached injunction jailed for four months

In Al-Ko Kober Ltd and another v Sambhi Mr Justice Nicol sentenced Balvinder Sambhi to four months' imprisonment for contempt of court for repeated breaches of an injunction.

Mr Sambhi had set up his own YouTube channel and used it, amongst other things, to publish a series of videos which made derogatory comments about one of his competitors and their prodcuts, Al-Ko Kober Ltd (the First Claimant) and its marketing manager Paul Jones (the Second Claimant).  The claimants, which manufacture devices which connect a car to a caravan and are designed to reduce “snaking”, issued proceedings against him in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court for malicious falsehood and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

On 6 October 2017,  Mr Justice Whipple granted an interim injunction against Mr Sambhi in favour of the company prohibiting malicious falsehoods and, furthermore, in favour of Mr Jones prohibiting unlawful data processing.  Our blog on the judgment in that case (Al-KO Kober Ltd & Anor v Balvinder Sambhi (t/a Torquebars)) [2017] EWHC 2474 (QB)), can be found here.

However, notwithstanding the terms of that injunction, Mr Sambhi went on to publish several more videos which were highly critical of the claimants. The claimants therefore returned to court and sought an order for committal.  In Al-Ko Kober Ltd & Anor v Sambhi [2018] EWHC 165 (QB) Mr Justice Nicklin held that the defendant had breached the order and was therefore in contempt of court.  However, he was afforded one last opportunity to avoid prison.  He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, but suspended for 18 months, on the condition that he did not commit any further breaches of the injunction.

At the end of November 2018, however, the case returned to court once again because the defendant had continued to disregard the terms of the injunction.  There was clear evidence that he had published further videos which made pejorative comments about the claimants.  As a result, he was also in breach of the earlier sentence for contempt (which had been suspended).  It was clear that Mr Sambhi had deliberately and repeatedly breached the court order and the question then arose as to whether his conduct had been sufficiently serious to cross the “custody threshold” and warrant a prison sentence, or whether a fine would be a more appropriate sanction.

The evidence before the court was that the defendant was unable to pay a fine because he was his partner’s carer and they lived on the disability allowance that was paid to her.  The judge held that it would not be the right approach to impose a custodial sentence simply because the defendant could not afford to pay a fine.  However, in the circumstances of this case, and in particular because of the gravity of Mr Sambhi's conduct in persistently and flagrantly breaching the court order with a full understanding of what he was doing, it held that the appropriate sanction would be commit him to prison for four months.


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