Family Law Hub

Thursfield v Thursfield [2012] EWHC 3621 (Ch)

  • In brief: Here, a wife ("W") was seeking enforcement of an American financial remedy order that had been registered in the High Court. Similarly to Young v Young [2013] below, the husband's ("H") substantial multi-million pound wealth seemed to have vanished – here, the assets were presented as no longer being in his control – and W sought H's committal.  

    H had previously been  ordered to swear and serve an affidavit providing specific information as well as a statement setting out how he was funding his legal representation, identifying those who were providing the funds to him, the terms on which those funds were being provided and, where known, where the third party was sourcing their monies from. He provided some evidence once W instigated committal proceedings but, as in Young, the disclosure was "wholly inadequate".

    On the issue of legal fees, he produced a paragraph simply stating that his legal fees were being funded by his new wife. HHJ Purle QC, who dealt with the hearing, found this to be manifestly not in compliance with the order as it failed to disclose the terms on which the sums were being provided to him and "more importantly" the source of his wife's funds were not disclosed.

    On the specific information that H had been directed to provide, HHJ Purle QC found there were many deficiencies – questions were answered " largely with obfuscation", no supporting evidence was provided, there were untruths, unlikely explanations and overall "desultory compliance and deliberate failure to explain".  

    HHJ Purle QC considered that H's punishment had to be at the higher end of the scale; a suspended sentence was rejected given the gravity of the breaches. H was sentenced to one year's imprisonment as punishment plus the remainder of the two year maximum term that could be imposed as a coercive measure.  

    There is a twist though. H was not present to hear sentence being passed; indeed, from reading the report, I'm not entirely clear where H was. However, W was left to enforce the committal order, possibly with the assistance of a European Arrest Warrant.  

    Comment

    H is a former Ford boss (he was responsible for closing the Dagenham plant in 2002). He is said to have been earning in the region of £1.2 million a year. H and W had been married for 27 years before separating; H went on to marry again and W believes that H's new wife is central to the question of where H's assets have gone – either they have been transferred to her or have been placed in a trust of which she is a beneficiary, allowing H to continue to enjoy his same high standard of living.

Case note, published: 08/02/2013

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Published: 08/02/2013

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