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Family Law

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07 APR 2009

FAMILY PROCEEDINGS: CH v RN, BN, KB and Sequestrators [2009] EWHC 640 (Fam)

(Family Division; Pamela Scriven QC sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court; 3 April 2009)

The child was living with the father. At the end of a period of contact the mother failed to return the child, and abducted the child to India, in breach of court orders. The mother was found to be guilty of contempt of court and the judge granted the father leave to issue a writ of sequestration. The sequestrators were directed to pay the father £25,000 to be used to help recover the child, plus solicitors' costs, from the sequestrated assets. The sequestrators duly took possession of bank accounts and a property in the mother's name. After a few months the child was returned to the father's care in England; in the meantime substantial costs had been incurred both by the father's solicitors and by the sequestrators. The amount to be paid to the solicitors required detailed assessment, which was not concluded until over a year had passed. Following unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the mother, the sequestrators sought directions to enable them to realise assets within their control to pay all the relevant costs. The mother responded by stating that the beneficial interest in the major sequestered assets belonged to the mother's brother and the maternal grandmother rather than to her. However, she and the other family members failed to produce any evidence or to answer relevant questions served by the father. At a hearing at which the court had indicated that it would make an order dismissing the mother's application for an adjournment and would make the directions sought unless the evidence was served within 14 days, a question arose as to whether the writ of sequestration needed to be renewed, under RSC, Ord 46, r 8.

If, which the court did not rule on, the writ of sequestration was in fact governed by RSC Ord, 46, r 8, the writ was executed for the purpose of r 8 either when the breaches of the court order that had led to the sequestration were rectified (in this case when the child returned to the jurisdiction), or when the sequestrators took possession of the relevant assets, both of which had happened within 12 months of the issue of the writ. The court did not accept that for the purposes of r 8 execution meant the process whereby all the functions of the sequestrators' appointment were discharged, including those unrelated to enforcing the original order in respect of which the mother had been found to be in contempt. Such an interpretation would lead to a nonsense, in that there would be no need to seek a renewal in such a case, because the writ would serve no further purpose.

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