Chekhov warned never to place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. Despite the arsenal that the Family Courts have at their disposal to protect people’s family lives, the bringing of criminal charges is a weapon rarely fired.
In a recent article in Family Law, Vardags barrister John Oxley makes a powerful case for pulling the trigger where justice is subverted by dishonest disclosure. “A scourge upon the Family Courts”, dishonest and fraudulent non-disclosure too often denies litigants their fair share, or forces them to incur costs in protracted proceedings.
The threat of criminal action could do much to ensure frank and full disclosure, coupled with the transferral of cases to investigative authorities with the power for international investigation.
John outlines the reasons for the family court’s tentativeness and explains how civil and criminal proceedings might be at odds. Punitive measures might compromise, for example, a party’s ability to meet a financial order.
However he concludes that would be a mistake to be too circumspect when the case fits. The case law may be scant but, when criminal conduct is spotted, he argues, "the gun should not remain unfired".
Subscribers can find the article in the March issue of Family Law.