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Non-disclosure is increasingly an issue in ancillary proceedings and it is often down to judicial discretion to establish whether or not it is in the public interest to report on and punish such dishonesty.
Vardags represented the father defending an application by the mother to disclose to the police and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) the fact that the father had lied in statements and on oath in proceedings. The mother also applied for the judgement not to be anonymised.
The mother and father had enjoyed a brief relationship which resulted in one child, a son named John. The mother applied to the court for the father to provide her with financial support for their child, an application known as a Schedule 1 case. Relations between the mother and the father were strained and very bitter and a number of applications and appeals were made to the court, spanning a number of years.
In the background to these proceedings, the mother instructed a journalist to research the father’s ‘true’ financial position. It materialised that in the course of the Schedule 1 proceedings, the father had failed to disclose proceeds of sale amounting to £111,000. The journalist published these findings and snippets from the transcripts of the hearings in which the father failed to disclose this sum of money. Upon discovering the father’s untruth, the court increased the lump sum the father had to pay the mother for the child’s benefit from £45,000 (which had been reduced from £85,000 on appeal) to £80,000. The mother was also prevented, by way of injunction, from disclosing the information.
The father worked in the financial services sector and the mother made an application to the court against an injunction forbidding the disclosure of information and documents in the Schedule 1 proceedings. Her aim in making the application was that she wished to report the father to the CPS and the Financial Conduct Authority for lying in court.
The mother argued that it was in the public interest for the father to be prosecuted for his perjury, and that, by virtue of his lies, the father had lost any right to confidentiality. The mother also claimed that the injunction breached her right to free speech.
The father’s case was that such an application would spell his financial ruin as he had no experience outside of the financial sector. This is turn would render the mother’s Schedule 1 applications pointless as he would have no means to support their son. In addition, he had apologised for his untruth and argued that confidentiality in financial proceedings was necessary to encourage frankness in family proceedings.
In coming to a decision on whether the injunction should be lifted, Mr Justice Bodey had to exercise a careful balancing act between the rights and interests of the parties between themselves and the public interest. Mr Justice Bodey acknowledged that the mother was overlooking the risk to her and her child’s budget should the father’s lies be disclosed to the police and the FCA. He thought this was evidence of the mother’s preoccupation with having her estranged husband punished. So far as the public interest was concerned, Mr Justice Bodey found that this was a more difficult balance to strike as it was clear there was merit in the argument that there should be sanctions for lying and disincentives for non-disclosure.
The judge was also very critical that the father wanted to avoid paying a lump sum to the mother which would have benefited his child. However his lie had to be put in the context of a very bitter and acrimonious relationship. Whilst he did not condone the father’s behaviour, Mr Justice Bodey considered that it would be disproportionate to allow the mother’s application.
The mother had also requested that the judgement be published without being anonymised. Mr Justice Bodey refused her application as it would undermine the injunction and in his view the welfare of the child.
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