I’ve often stated on here that orders of the court should be obeyed. It’s an obvious point, and shouldn’t really need stating, but it does, as too many people think that they are somehow exempt from obeying court orders. I know, for example, that some people take exception to me saying that orders must be obeyed, but I do not do so to annoy them or anyone – my intention is just to give some very basic advice, for the benefit of all involved in court proceedings.
The latest in the never-ending list of cases in which a party fails to comply with court orders is LKH v TQA AL Z (Interim maintenance and pound for pound costs funding), the latest judgment in which was handed down by Mr Justice Holman in the High Court on the 24th of July, and which has just been published on the Bailii website. It gives an important demonstration of the power of the court to deal with such failures.
The case concerned an application by a wife for interim maintenance, in the context of proceedings following a foreign divorce. It should be pointed out that the family has great wealth and, as Mr Justice Holman stated in an earlier judgment,
“having access to great wealth, the parties have enmeshed themselves into litigation of the utmost intensity.”
The latest judgment concerns
“a grave picture of non-compliance by the husband”
with orders previously made by the court.
One of the orders required the husband to file a Form E financial statement by a certain date. Goodness, it is so boring hearing of yet another party failing to file their Form E by the time required by the court. I remember this happening in virtually every case when I was practising, and it is still rife today. So here’s a simple piece of advice: you will have to file your Form E eventually, so the sooner you do it the better for all concerned, including yourself. (If you are struggling to fill this – read our advice here.)
But this was not the end of the husband’s ‘defiance’ (to use the word of Holman J). He had also failed to pay various sums, including interim maintenance he had been ordered to pay to the wife, and the sum of £40,000 per month he had also been ordered to pay, to cover the wife’s legal costs. As a result, he owed the wife some £230,000. He claimed that he could not make these payments, but he did manage to find the sum of £95,000 to pay to his own solicitors, who he had just instructed, in place of his previous solicitors.
Needless to say, Mr Justice Holman was not impressed by the husband’s antics. Accordingly, he made an injunction prohibiting the husband from paying any further money to his solicitors unless he paid an equal amount (i.e. pound for pound) to the wife’s solicitors towards satisfaction and discharge of the arrears and current instalments of the costs order referred to above.
The husband’s barrister objected to the injunction, saying that it denied the husband the means of obtaining legal advice, which he submitted was contrary to principle and was impermissible. Mr Justice Holman rejected this: the injunction was not intended to deny, nor was it denying the husband the means of obtaining legal advice. As far as he was concerned, the husband could go straight out and pay £100,000 to his solicitors for further legal advice, the only condition being that he also paid pound for pound £100,000 to the wife’s solicitors.
Mr Justice Holman concluded with these strong words:
“It is, frankly, intolerable and an affront to justice that in the last month this man paid £95,000 to his new solicitors at the very time when he was already in arrears and getting further into arrears with his wife and her very patient and long-suffering solicitors in the amounts I have described … I am quite satisfied that the order which I propose to make is well within the jurisdiction of the High Court and well within my discretion and that the facts and circumstances of this case now require and justify such an order.”
It would be nice if those considering breaching such costs orders were aware of this decision. The message is clear: if the other party cannot have access to proper legal advice, then neither can you.