Family Law Hub

Committal

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  • A final child arrangements order had been made, and the child was to live with his mother. The father breached the order, abducting the child for seven days. He told the court that he had been planning the abduction ever since the order was made. He had borrowed a car and a flat from a friend in preparation. Arbuthnot J found the level of culpability to be high, and the level of harm to be medium. The child had found the abduction traumatic. Finding him had required much press involvement, and it was difficult to anticipate what the effect of those stories would be on the child's development. There were several aggravating factors. Arbuthnot J committed the father to prison for four months, to be released after two months, subject to recall and probation. Judgment, 13/10/2021, free
  • The former husband appealed against an order committing him to prison for six weeks unless he paid the sum of £50,000 to his former wife, as previously ordered by Mostyn J, by way of maintenance. The order was made under s 5 of the Debtors Act 1869 and the judgment summons procedure in Order 28 of the County Court Rules 1984. Underhill LJ noted that a judgment debtor can only be committed if the creditor proves to the criminal standard that the debtor had the means to pay the sum in question at the relevant date, but had refused or neglected to do so. The former husband appealed on the ground that the judge could not have been satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that he had the sum in question. Underhill LJ did not accept that submission. There was no rule that the only way in which the judge could be sure of that point was by explicit evidence given at the time of the committal hearing. What was required would depend on all the circumstances of the case, including such inferences as it was proper for the judge to draw from the evidence that he did hear, which might include an inference that unless there were some reason to believe to the contrary the original default was continuing. In the circumstances of the present case, the judge had been fully entitled to conclude to the criminal standard that the money was still outstanding. Nugee LJ agreed. The appeal had been lodged seven days out of time; the extension was allowed, and the appeal dismissed on the merits. Judgment, 23/08/2021, free
  • A hearing at which Cobb J considered the appropriate sanction for breaches of a freezing injunction. The parties had never married, but lived together for about 20 years and had five children. The female partner had asserted that there had been 562 withdrawals from the account, and the vast majority had been proven. Cobb J took into account that it was not the female partner's wish to see the male partner imprisoned, and that the breaches had been deliberate, repeated, and over an extended period of time, leaving the account materially depleted, and that the male partner had at no time admitted his wrongdoing or accepted responsibilty for the breach. A six-month sentence of imprisonment would be the appropriate sanction, suspended for twelve months, to ensure his compliance with the extant final orders. Judgment, 18/11/2020, free
  • The mother was a Bulgarian national with indefinite leave to remain, and was currently in Bulgaria with the two-year-old daughter. She was prevented from bringing the daughter back to England by an order of the Bulgarian court. The father had dual Bulgarian and British nationality and was in London. The central issue before the court, in what was described as "somewhat chaotic litigation", was whether a passport order should be discharged, but the court also considered the mother's application for committal of the father, and the issue of whether the English court or the Bulgarian court had jurisdiction regarding the daughter. Cobb J directed that the father's British passport should be returned to him forthwith. The father was directed to execute all necessary documents and travel consents to ensure that the mother was forthwith able to return the daughter to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. The committal order was dismissed; in Cobb J's view it was destined to fail. The case would be listed for further directions on the issue of habitual residence and jurisdiction once the International Family Justice Office had indicated whether it was able to establish the status of the proceedings in the Bulgarian courts. Judgment, 11/11/2020, free
  • The unmarried couple had separated and the female partner had moved out of the family home. Their two children were now adults. She sought a sale of the property under TOLATA 1996 on the basis that it had had been purchased for the purpose of providing a family home and that purpose had come to an end. An order was made for the male partner to give up vacant possession of the property, and he was forbidden from interfering with the sale. He was then committed to prison for breaches of those injunctive orders, and now appealed against that sentence. Baker LJ found that none of the grounds or arguments advanced established that the judge had been wrong either in any of her findings or in the sentence passed. The male partner did not accept the validity of the order made in the TOLATA proceedings and believed that he was entitled to disregard it. He would have continued to defy the order if allowed his liberty. Bean LJ agreed, and the appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 24/04/2020, free

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