Williams v Williams [2023] EWHC 2479 (Fam)28 February 2024

Published: 21/03/2024 06:11


Moor J: H held in contempt for failing to comply with orders; sentenced to 56 days’ imprisonment, suspended for 28 days, to allow filing of sworn Form E.


H is exceptionally wealthy with assets held overseas of more than £1bn. H failed to engage with the proceedings in their entirety and had been overseas. At an earlier hearing, considered here, W applied for a Hadkinson order and LSPO.


W applied to commit H to prison for contempt for failing to comply with the order of HHJ Gibbons dated 19 January 2023 to file a Form E by 1 May 2023 and necessary documents for the FDA by 15 May 2023.

Upon arriving in the UK, H was arrested pursuant to a Bench Warrant and held in custody. Moor J acknowledged this would have come as a shock to H but hoped it would demonstrate the seriousness of the proceedings, and the importance of complying with court orders.

At the hearing, H acknowledged he was aware of the earlier order and the attached penal notice and admitted to not complying with the orders. H accepted he was in contempt, and the court was satisfied W had discharged the burden of proof to the criminal standard.


In sentencing for contempt, the court must consider two aspects; (i) punishment for failing to comply; and (ii) securing compliance with the order in the future. The court was satisfied a custodial sentence was the only appropriate sentence, but the most important objective was to secure a sworn Form E from H. Accordingly, the court sentenced H to 56 days’ imprisonment, suspended for 28 days, to allow H’s solicitors time to prepare a Form E. The court warned H failure to comply would likely lead to an immediate custodial sentence, and that consideration would be given to a European Arrest Warrant should H be out of the jurisdiction.


W was awarded costs of £58k, assessed on an indemnity basis, not to be enforced because they were already accounted for by the LSPO. Whilst usual practice would require unspent funds to be returned to H, even if savings occurred, the £58k wouldn’t be required to be returned to H because of the order.

H required funds to comply with the court’s orders. Moor J allowed for a payment of £25k to H’s solicitors by way of amendment to the earlier freezing injunction. The source of the further £75k sought by H’s solicitors would need to be agreed in conjunction with W’s solicitors to prevent H from spending all frozen assets in this jurisdiction and becoming ‘judgment proof’.


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