Family Court sentences a property tycoon to 6 years imprisonment

The High Court ruled yesterday (16th January 2013) that a property tycoon should be sentenced to 6 months in prison for consistently failing to comply with court orders. The decision came after many years of protracted court proceedings and dispute over maintenance payments to Ms Young. They have two young children together.

The parties separated in 2006 and at the time, Ms contends that Mr Young was worth £400 million. Four years ago he was ordered by the court to pay Ms Young a sum of £27,500 a month by way of maintenance, but he failed to do so and now the arrears total over £1 million. Mr Young contends that he is ‘penniless and bankrupt’. Yet Ms Young says that Mr Young has ‘hidden his entire resources to avoid his legitimate obligations towards her and the children’.

Mr Young represented himself at court, while his wife was fully represented by a QC and junior counsel. The husband repeatedly failed to comply with court orders where he was asked to disclose his finances. He continuously failed to provide satisfactory answers to Ms young’s questions and the matter has been back and forth to court on a number of occasions due to either Mr Young’s failure to comply and/or due to his deficient replies. As a result Ms Young sought to activate the suspended committal order (6 months in prison) made by the court on 29th June 2009 and also sought to have Mr Young committed to prison for contempt of court in respect of the order dated 12th November 2012.

At yesterdays hearing, the judge carefully read the husbands further responses to the wife’s questions and the judge found that the husband’s response did not ‘advance the position at all. Almost every answer is the same’. The Judge said he was ‘satisfied that there has been a wholesale failure to comply with the court order. The husband has simply not produced the documentation to verify his financial losses’.

Mr Justice Moor said that ‘there has been a flagrant and deliberate contempt over a very long period of time’ by Mr Young. Mr Young did attempt to seek an adjournment to the sentencing hearing asking for more time to comply and wanting legal representation as well as citing his ill-health as a reason for asking the judge not to pass an immediate custodial sentence. The judge was unsympathetic to his requests. The Judge refused his request for an adjournment saying that he had more than enough opportunities to comply to date and that he could have chosen to be legally represented at this hearing but he did not and in any case ‘there was nothing that a lawyer could say to change the outcome of the case’. The judge also rejected Mr Young’s ill-health as a reason for not passing immediate custodial sentence. Mr Young was sentenced to six months in prison, of which he will serve half. Mr Young said that he was ‘shocked’ as he was being led to prison carrying his Louis Vuitton overnight bag.

This decision is a signal that the family law courts expect full compliance with its court orders and that a continued failure to do so will have serious consequences.

If you have any queries relating to financial proceedings in a matrimonial case, then please contact our specialist family law solicitor, Ms Satvinder Sokhal on 020 8280 2710.