Glasgow & West Scotland

Rangers chairman Dave King cleared of contempt of court

Mike Ashley and Dave King Image copyright Getty Images and PA
Image caption Mike Ashley's firm Sports Direct have failed to have Rangers Chairman Dave King (right) found in contempt of court

Rangers chairman Dave King has been cleared of committing contempt of court in a legal row with Sports Direct.

Mike Ashley's firm had already failed in an attempt to have Mr King jailed for allegedly breaching a gagging order relating to the club's retail deal.

At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Peter Smith also threw out the contempt of court charge.

A further hearing is pending over Sport Direct's claim that Mr King breached a confidential agreement.

In dismissing the contempt of court charge, Mr Justice Smith said the case should never have been brought and was an abuse of process.

The judge said the "whole proceedings from first to last were designed to intimidate rather than to seek proper sanctions for an alleged breach".

'Muscular tactics'

Mr Justice Smith went on: "These kind of muscular tactics of using a threat of committal is something which the courts should deplore."

The judge also ordered Sports Direct to pay Mr King's legal costs on an indemnity basis - the highest scale possible - "as a mark of my disapproval of the way in which the claim was brought".

He also ordered an interim payment to be made to Mr King of £70,000 within 14 days.

The judge observed: "It seems to me that SDI (Sports Direct International) regards the committal application as merely another method of enforcing bargains."

The legal battle in London is estimated to have cost about £400,000 so far.

The origins of the case go back to the retail agreement which Sports Direct entered into with the club's previous board.

The new board, which was elected last year, has said before that it would like to renegotiate the deal.

Court injunction

Mr Ashley won a court injunction preventing Rangers, and anyone on the new board, from revealing details of the agreement.

Sports Direct had alleged that Mr King breached this injunction during an interview he gave to Sky at his home in South Africa.

The firm claimed Mr King was in contempt of court as during the interview he revealed the existence of a meeting and discussions related to contracts between both parties.

In a submission to the court, Mr King stated that he had no recollection of whether or not he said the words complained of in the Sky Sports interview.

Lawyers for Sports Direct argued the court was entitled to draw inferences against Mr King to the criminal standard required for an individual to be jailed for contempt.

However, Mr Justice Smith dismissed the firm's motion that Mr King should be jailed, at a hearing in December.

The judge has now formally dismissed the contempt of court charge, though a further hearing will take place next month to determine whether there has been a breach of confidentiality by Mr King.

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