It wasn’t me
In our recent post on conduct (Stirring it in the Family Courts) we highlighted what can happen in cases where one or other of the parties’ behaviour is such that it can persuade the court to change or impact on the exercise of its discretion to divide the assets. That post focussed on conduct under S.25 (2) (g) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
Recently however, there have been more cases which have dealt with (among other things) the issue of ‘litigation conduct’ that is to say the manner in which a party conducts themselves in the proceedings. Here, rather than having an impact on the division of assets pursuant to the S.25 Matrimonial Causes Act factors, the court takes a different approach – one that leads to costs orders and more…….
The ‘No Order’ Principle
The general principle on costs in financial proceedings is that of ‘no order’ as to costs. This is enshrined in the Family Procedure Rules 2010 in rule 28.3. Incidentally, Schedule 1 Children Act proceedings are not covered by this rule, and within those actions, the court starts with a ‘clean sheet’. We discussed Schedule 1 applications in our post here.
However, the court is prepared to make costs orders against a party in a case where the way in which they have conducted themselves in the proceedings – particularly in relation to disclosure of assets – has left a lot to be desired.
In the case of Veluppillai v Veluppillai & Ors  EWHC 3095 (Fam), Mostyn J dealt with what he described as the husband’s ‘abysmal’ behaviour. He considered it so significant that it justified an order (under FPR 28.3(6) and (7)) that the husband paid all of the wife’s costs – which at final hearing had come to a total of £146,609 including vat.
However Mostyn J didn’t stop there. The husband had been ‘bombarding’ the court with emails, making ‘numerous’ applications which were totally without merit including 3 attempts to adjourn the proceedings. One extract of the emails sent by the husband to Mostyn J’s clerk is reproduced in the judgment. It reads (in these terms):
“ANOTHONY, CAN YOU BLOODY PASS ONTO THIS EMAIL TO MOSTYN WHO HAS BEEN DEALING WITH OTHER PARTY CROOKS ALAGA & CO AND PROSITUTE ANUSHIYA VELUPPILLAI. WHO HAVE GOT HISTORY OF STELING, DISHONEST, COMMITING FRAUD IF YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING THE HEARING WITHOUT TELLING ME I WILL F**k YOU ALL MOSTYN I WANT THE F***ING ANSWER NOW. WHERE IOS MY F***ING ORDER AND YOU HAVE BEEN MY HEALTH WORSE THAN IT IS. WANTS THE RESPONSE AND F***ING UPDATE NOW CROOKS ….”
 And at 08:16 he followed it up with:
“THIS IS MIS-CARRIAGE OF JUSTIC MOSTYN – I WANT THE F***ING UPDATE ON WHAT IS HAPPENING YOU F***ING TALIKIUNG MY HARTD EARNED MONEY MOSTYN WHO THE HELL ARE YOU MAKING DECISION ON MY MONEY. HAVE YOU EARNED THIS F***ING MONEY. YOU ALL MUST BE EXECUTED IN A GAS CHAMBER. I WANT THE F***ING RESPONSE NOW.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mostyn J ordered that in addition to the costs, the husband was to be the subject of a civil restraint order under FPR 4.8 and PD4A paragraph 3.1 for two years.
And then, for good measure, referring himself to his decisions in DL v SL  EWHC 2621 (Fam) and Appleton & Anor v News Group Newspapers Ltd & Anor  EWHC 2689 (Fam) with regards to publicity in the family courts Mostyn J ordered that the judgment itself be made public. He was of the view that the husband’s behaviour was ‘at the extreme end of the spectrum’ and it was in the public interest for it to be exposed. He acknowledged that by making such an order the ‘wholly innocent’ wife would lose her anonymity, but he felt that the public interest argument outweighed the wife’s right to privacy.
Costs, Restraining Orders & Privacy
Harsh on the wife? You decide. She might have received her costs (which were being met from the public purse through legal aid) but she loses her own privacy because of the actions of her husband. But it does go to show the lengths that the court is willing to go to in cases where a party’s litigation conduct is such that they cannot be ignored. It is not just costs orders, but restraining orders and the glare of publicity that is a very real possibility for those who choose to misbehave in court proceedings.
For more details on this or any other family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact James or Frank. Paradigm Family Law offers a free initial consultation and our fixed fee solutions cover financial proceedings from start to finish. You can call us on 0845 6020422 or email us to [email protected]. You can also follow us on twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest news and views on family law.