A man involved in fraught divorce proceedings with his former wife has been sentenced to prison for contempt of court.
He and his second wife admitted breaching financial orders made during the “acrimonious” proceedings which followed the breakdown of a lengthy marriage to his first wife.
One forbade him from disposing of certain matrimonial assets, and also required him to pay the net proceeds from the sale of a caravan to his solicitor. A second order related to the sale of shares he held in a taxi firm, and forbade dissipation of these.
A further order was issued to the man’s second wife, requiring her to release bank statements and evidence relating to the purchase of property at the Flamingo Land them park.
An application to commit the couple to prison was adjourned twice before eventually being heard by Her Honour Judge Hudson in the Family Court sitting at Newcastle Upon Tyne.
The husband argued that the caravan had been sold in breach of the order following an agreement with his ex-wife that the money would be used to buy a car for their son. This meant he had not been able to use the money to pay the solicitor. She admitted reaching such an agreement but said he had not complied with the conditions they had agreed.
Meanwhile, he told the court that he had invested the proceeds from sale of his taxi firm into his various business, in order to be able to continue paying the mortgage on the former matrimonial home and support his second family. But, he insisted, the money had not been lost and was still available for division in the financial settlement with is former wife.
Nevertheless, he also claimed he was unable to retrieve the funds. The Judge noted:
“At the hearing before me on December 2015, [the husband] told me he wasn’t able to repay the missing money. Although he maintains the assets remain available for distribution in the financial remedy proceedings, and despite his knowledge of this committal application and its potential consequences, he has not taken steps to rectify the position.”
The orders made against his second wife was intended to help trace funds which the husband claimed he could not locate. She admitted breaching them but insisted that this behaviour had to be “seen against the background of the highly acrimonious proceedings in which there has been, she says, overt hostility towards her from [the husband’s first wife] including damage to her own property.”
She also failed to attend a court hearing, but later produced the financial documents that had originally been required.
Judge Hudson concluded the husband’s breaches were the most serious. She declared:
“Any breach of a court order is a serious matter; a contempt of court…In the case of [the husband], I have considered the more serious nature of the final breach in terms of its repeat nature and the magnitude of the sum involved.”
Nevertheless, the second wife had shown “a complete disregard for the orders of the court and for the requirement for her to comply with these court proceedings.”
She sentenced to 14 days in prison, but this was suspended for 12 months because she had not provided the financial documents demanded by the court.
The husband, meanwhile, had been fully aware of the risk of prison if he did not comply with the orders made against him, but proceeded anyway.
He received two sentences of 28 days for the first two breaches, to run concurrently with three months in prison for his failure to preserve the funds from the sale of his shares in the taxi firm.
The Judge explained:
“I have concluded that, together, they are not sentences which can be suspended.”
The judgement can be read here.