FINANCIAL RELIEF/INJUNCTIONS: Harrison v Harrison [2008] EWHC 362 (QB)

31 JAN 2008

(Queen's Bench Division; HHJ Seymour QC; 31 January 2008)

A High Court judge had conducted a hearing into the wife's ancillary relief claim, reviewing all the relevant evidence, and made an order, including a lump sum to the wife of £600,000 and periodical payments to the wife of £10,000 pa; the judge made no order as to costs. The wife did not appeal the order, but subsequently applied in the Queen's Bench Division to have the ancillary relief judgment set aside and to have her own, and her husband's costs, paid to her, on the basis that the husband had obtained the judgment by fraudulent misrepresentations and/or material non-disclosures. In the proceedings, the wife obtained a freezing order ex parte over the husband's assets up to £2 million, which effectively prevented the husband from conducting his business; this was first varied, and then discharged. The wife later sought to have the case transferred to the Family Division.

The issues in the case did not depend upon considerations within the specialist expertise of the Family Division, and a judge of the Queen's Bench Division was the appropriate person to deal with the issues surrounding the freezing injunction. There was no proper foundation for the wife's claims, and the husband was entitled to summary judgment. Much of the evidence and many of the wife's arguments had already been canvassed before the Family Division judge; the attempt to challenge a final judgment on grounds that lacked substance amounted to an abuse of the process of the court. The claim for the husband's costs made no sense, as the wife had not been required to pay these. There should not have been an application for a freezing order, and the application in fact made had been a travesty: almost nothing had been done as it should have been done. The judge who had granted the freezing order had been seriously misled; there had been serious failures of frankness and disclosure by the wife at the ex parte hearing. The judge should not have been invited to freeze company assets, given that the company was not a party to the wife's application, and it should not have been suggested to him that it was appropriate to omit the usual provision in a freezing order permitting the carrying on of ordinary business. The wife was to pay the costs of the action on the indemnity basis.

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