Businessman in divorce dispute sentenced for contempt

Divorce|July 4th 2014

A British businessman living in Dubai has been given a suspended prison sentence  by the High Court in London for contempt of court after failing to make court-ordered payments to his ex-wife. Paul Grundy and his ex-wife Jennifer Francis moved to the Middle Eastern state after their 2002 marriage and established a business installing fencing on construction sites. This was highly successful and the couple enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle before their marriage ended in 2009.

Mrs Grundy returned to England, while her former husband remained in Dubai. In 2012 a judge ordered Mr Grundy to pay his ex-wife a settlement of £2.3 million but he is still to pay more than £2 million. Ms Francis went to court, arguing that Mr Grundy had breached the order to pay and was in contempt. He did not attend the High Court hearing in London but insisted through lawyers that he was unable to pay. But, Mrs Justice Parker referred to bank statements which reportedly showed that Mr Grundy had spent many thousands of pounds at luxury goods stores. The judge declared:

“The bank statements demonstrate a very lavish life of expenditure on luxury goods. It is absolutely plain to me that this is a man who continues to live a lavish lifestyle. [He] had the money to fritter away on luxury goods but he has paid so little to [Ms Francis].”

Mr Grundy was sentenced to six weeks in jail suspended for three months. The sentence would be removed if he paid the sums owed, the judge noted. Solicitor Holly Lamb of Stowe Family Law represented Ms Francis. She said:

“Our client is delighted.”

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  1. Andrew says:

    If he likes the climate in Dubai he could spend the rest of his life there.

    With respect I don’t think committal for non-payment is to be equated with contempt. It is the last remnant of the old judgment summons which used to be available until I think 1969 to all judgment creditors.

    I make no bones about my opinion that imprisonment, for civil debt, any civil debt including matrimonial and child support debt, is a mark of a servile state. It is also grossly unfair when there are competing creditors to allow one to have the advantage of the threat of imprisonment and deny it to the others. If anything the ex-wife ought to be regarded in the same way as a former business partner and postponed until outside creditors have been paid in full.

    Not of course that I know whether there are any in this case – I am speaking generally.

  2. Luke says:

    Unless the court has access to the money which they can forcibly take I think such gaol sentences make the court look stupid.
    Let’s suppose he doesn’t pay and he does the six weeks in gaol – then what ? Are the court going to gaol him forever for withholding money that they are not sure he has ? I think not.
    When he has come out of gaol is he going to feel more inclined or less inclined to pay ? I think we know the answer to that too.
    Other than harassing him whilst in their jurisdiction and chasing access to his assets (an action which his spouse might end up paying for in legal fees) I don’t see any productive way forward other than trying to do a deal with him.
    There was a case in the USA where a man could not afford to pay all his spousal support [he claims because the Judge assessed him during his best sales year and rigidly stuck to that figure in bad times] – so the Judge gaoled him for not paying the full amount.
    The wife was happy – until she realised whilst he was in gaol instead of getting some money she then was going to get NOTHING…
    When you have somebody else earning all the money that you are trying to take it becomes very difficult if they find it so unreasonable that they won’t (or even can’t) play ball.

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