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(Privy Council, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, Lord Wilson of Culworth, 31 July 2013)
The husband and wife were born in Trinidad although the wife also had British nationality. They married in London and lived during the marriage in the UK, the USA and Trinidad. After 29 years of marriage the husband petitioned for divorce in Trinidad and the wife applied for financial remedy. Exceptionally, there was a 4-year delay between the hearing and judgment being given. The Court of Appeal upheld the judgment and the wife appealed to the Privy Council by which time a delay of 16 years had elapsed since the initial hearing.
The delay of 4 years was entirely unacceptable. At its centre, a determination of a claim for financial relief, was the need for an analysis of present circumstances, financial and otherwise, and for the crafting of the fairest future financial arrangements for the parties on foot of it. Apart from the burden cast by the delay upon the litigants, the orders then ultimately made could well have become unrealistic in the interim. The Board was not asked to determine whether delay in the delivery of the judgment, entirely unexplained, was unconstitutional but on any view it was an affront to family justice.
The Board found that, gross though was the judge's delay in its delivery, there had been no significant consequential error in the reasoning of his judgment. It balked at the prospect of a rehearing. The costs of the financial proceedings and the length of their pendency to date were both already out of all proportion to the sums conceivably at stake.
The wife had failed to make out her entitlement to a re-hearing and the appeal was dismissed.
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