The Court of Appeal has recently upheld a decision to imprison a husband for contempt of court in the case of Hart v Hart, 2018 EWCA Civ 1053.

Mr Hart had given an undertaking that he would facilitate the transfer of one of his companies to his ex-wife as part of the divorcing couple’s financial settlement.  However, records of the company were removed and he refused to hand them over or disclose their whereabouts which made it impossible for Mrs Hart to run the company effectively. He continued to breach his undertaking despite the court making orders for him to take steps to produce the missing records.

In February 2018, HHJ Wildblood QC found that Mr Hart had persistently been in contempt of court and had attempted to conceal his contempt, showing no remorse for his failure to comply with the order. The Court of Appeal stated that Mr Hart still had not appreciated the seriousness of what he had done and his “contemptuous disregard of the orders was motivated by resentment.”

Mr Hart’s application to appeal the orders on the grounds that the Family Court had acted outside of their powers was dismissed and the sentence imposed was not considered excessive. Mr Hart’s actions were considered a demonstration of his resentment about the financial orders made in his wife’s favour. The court found that this had caused Mrs Hart great expense and put significant pressure on her – which is what Mr Hart intended.

This decision sends out a clear message that orders of the court must be respected and that the courts will take steps to enforce orders which are not complied with, including imprisonment where a financial penalty is considered inadequate.

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