It is trite to say that emotions can run very high in the course of family court proceedings. The same emotions that came to the fore when the relationship between the parties broke down are played out publicly (or at least no longer entirely privately) on the legal battleground. Feelings of revenge, unfairness, betrayal and downright hatred (to name but a few) can thwart all attempts at a rational approach to the resolution of the issues thrown up by the relationship breakdown.
As any family lawyer can attest, the display of such emotions is commonplace within family proceedings. Judges, lawyers and other professionals involved in the proceedings have to deal with it and do their best to minimise it, and for the most part the behaviour has little effect upon the outcome of the proceedings. However, occasionally a case comes along in which a party’s behaviour is so beyond the pale that it simply cannot be ignored when the court makes its deliberations upon what orders to make. Such a case was Veluppillai v Veluppillai & Others.
As Mr Justice Mostyn said, it was a routine financial remedies (also known as ‘ancillary relief’) case, that should not have needed a High Court judge and four days of court time to deal with. The complication, however, was the conduct of the husband, which Mr Justice Mostyn described as ‘truly abysmal’, and amounted to extreme litigation misconduct.
Here are a few examples of the husband’s conduct:
- Mounting four appeals against decisions made in the course of the proceedings.
- Unpleasant, menacing conduct in court, resulting in repeated warnings by judges.
- Assaulting the wife’s counsel and the wife in court, for which he was later convicted of assault in the magistrates’ court.
- He then skipped his sentencing hearing and fled abroad, from where he bombarded the court with abusive emails (45 between 10:30 on the 26th of October and 08:10 on the 28th of October 2015), claiming that he had a fatal illness and demanding that the proceedings be adjourned indefinitely.
- Entering into a number of transactions designed to defeat the wife’s claims.
- Selling the wife’s jewellery for £40,000.
- Failing to disclose considerable funds.
The court invited the husband to participate in the proceedings by telephone or video, but he chose not to do so, instead keeping up a stream of extremely abusive emails to Mr Justice Mostyns’ clerk, including the following example:
“THIS IS MIS-CARRIAGE OF JUSTIC MOSTYN – I WANT THE F**KING UPDATE ON WHAT IS HAPPENING YOU F**KING TALIKIUNG MY HARTD EARNED MONEY MOSTYN WHO THE HELL ARE YOU MAKING DECISION ON MY MONEY. HAVE YOU EARNED THIS F**KING MONEY. YOU ALL MUST BE EXECUTED IN A GAS CHAMBER. I WANT THE F**KING RESPONSE NOW.”
What is the court’s response to this sort of behaviour? Well, Mr Justice Mostyn’s response included the following:
- Drawing an inference that the husband had undisclosed assets, which he valued at £500,000.
- Adopting the wife’s settlement proposals in full.
- Ordering the husband to pay the wife’s costs, in the sum of £146,609, to be charged on a property in Feltham which was held by the son and husband’s sister, but which Mr Justice Mostyn found was actually owned by the husband.
- Making an extended civil restraint order, under which the husband was restrained for two years from making applications in any court concerning any matter involving or relating to these proceedings, without first obtaining Mr Justice Mostyn’s permission. Further, he directed that if the husband wanted to make any such application for permission then he would have to attend the court in person. Applications by email would not be accepted – they will not be read and will be destroyed.
- Directing that the judgment be published in full and without anonymization, so that the public is “aware of the scale of problems that courts administering justice and implementing the rule of law have to face at the hands of unrepresented and malevolent litigants determined to do everything they can to destroy the process.”
- Finally, directing that all of the husband’s emails to the court since the 8th of October 2015 be sent to the Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis, for him to decide if any of the threats contained in them amount to criminal offences.
All in all, a clear demonstration of how not to conduct yourself in family court proceedings, and of the outcome that you can expect if you do.
The full report of the case can be read here.