December 8, 2021

Ex-Fulham assistant DoF found in contempt of court

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A former assistant director of football at Fulham could be jailed after he has been found in contempt of court over social media posts.

A high court judge has ruled that Craig Kline, who left the club in 2017, breached an injunction in relation to seven posts between August 19 2019 and April 5 2020.

Anyone found guilty of contempt of court could go to prison for up to two years, receive a fine, or both.

Mr Justice Butcher handed down his ruling on Wednesday and a further hearing date will be set to determine his punishment.

Kline’s employment at Fulham ended in 2017 and, under an agreement on November 22 2017, “various terms were agreed between the parties, which included a number of confidentiality and non-disparagement undertakings given by Mr Kline”.

The court heard that Kline admitted 42 breaches of a court order in tweets, or posts, between December 14 2018 and February 4 2019 but contested that 16 subsequent posts did not breach an injunction.

The specific nature of Kline’s “derogatory or critical” comments or statements relating to his employment, or departure, from Fulham have not been disclosed in open court.

Mr Justice Butcher ruled: “I have carefully considered the tweets and posts identified in the second committal application. I am prepared to accept that there is a doubt as to whether a reasonable person would reasonably understand nine of the tweets or posts to relate to events or subjects or persons to whom, or to which, Mr Kline was prohibited by the order from referring.

“I am, however, in no doubt that in the case of seven of the tweets or posts they would have been reasonably understood as relating to persons and matters to which Mr Kline was prohibited by the order from referring. In each of these cases, as Mr Kline had deliberately made the tweet or post, there is a breach, even if he may not have been directly intending to breach the order.

“Mr Kline was accordingly in contempt of court.”

The judge noted that Kline is an “intelligent and articulate man, with a legal background” and he is capable of “sophisticated but often misconceived reasoning”.

Fulham were relegated in 2019 after a troubled one season stay

“He is clearly so convinced of the justice of his cause that, on occasion in these proceedings, he has overstepped the limit of truthfulness to further it. He regards the restrictions placed upon him, including by the order of Mrs Justice Moulder, as unjustified.”

In relation to the 42 breaches, the judge rejected Kline’s suggestion that “it was in some doubt that he was the author of a few of these tweets or posts”.

The judgment noted: “Mr Kline emphasised, in relation to the tweets or posts that had been the subject of the first committal application that they had all been taken down by the time that the application was issued, and a number, he said, had been taken down before a complaint had been made about them. I accept that the tweets or posts were removed and will take that into account.”

Earlier this month, a three-day committal hearing was held in private after the judge ruled that publicity would “defeat the object of the hearing” over whether Kline had “breached obligations not to make disparaging allegations” against Fulham.

Mr Justice Butcher noted that the subsequent 16 tweets or posts have been removed and ruled his next hearing will be held in private, but Kline’s punishment will be revealed in open court.