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Bloomsbury Family Law Briefing: May Teaser

Top five cases

Stocker v Stocker [2019] UKSC 17 (3 April 2019) – A woman was entitled to be protected from defamation proceedings by a former abuser (her husband). She has rights, based on freedom of expression, to speak of her experiences on social media.

H-L (Children: Summary Dismissal of Care Proceedings) [2019] EWCA Civ 704 (17 April 2019) – Judge erred in law in failure to define the date when the threshold was crossed: on issue of proceedings both children were likely to suffer significant harm.

Giusti v Ferragamo [2019] EWCA Civ 691 (17 April 2019) – Appeal against order staying an English divorce petition, pending resolution the Italian courts: a primary objective of Brussels IIA which is to avoid proceedings in more than one jurisdiction (see [63]).

XW v XH [2019] EWCA Civ 549 (2 April 2019) – Successful application for a Court of Appeal reporting restrictions order based on the interests of the parties’ child.

Thum v Thum [2019] EWFC 25 (16 April 2019), Mostyn J – Production of H’s flash drive ordered against H’s lawyers who held it after it had been handed to them by W’s lawyers.

Contempt: committal and a witness’s statement of truth

A pressing question for judges in all civil courts is how to punish untruthfulness in any statement for the court. Such statements must be endorsed with a statement of truth. The consequences of not telling the truth – whether deliberately or carelessly – has recently given rise to some important case law in Court of Appeal in In Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Ltd v Zafar [2019] EWCA Civ 392. In that case the statement was from an expert witness; but the same rules and guidance applies whether the statement is from a party, a lay witness or an expert.

The need for truth in any statement is obvious; especially where statements must be verified by a statement of truth (FPR 2010, r 17.2(3); PD17A para 1.2). The family proceedings provisions for a statement of truth are at FPR 2010, Pt 17, modelled on the parallel Civil Procedure Rules 1998, Pt 22. Rule 17.6 provides for what happens if a statement proves to be false: namely proceedings for contempt (r 17.6(1)) by the Attorney-General or, by a party, with permission of the court (r 17.6(2)). It was this on which guidance was given in Zafar. Committal ultimately turns on whether an alleged contemnor has undermined the administration of justice. In Zafar the Court of Appeal explained what should be the consequences for a contemnor; and what factors a judge should take into account when fixing sentence and when deciding if the sentence should be suspended.

 The Family Law Briefing is part of the Bloomsbury Law Online Service. The full briefing is available here.

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